We have all romanticized how working from home would be and what our teletherapy home office would look like. It might be time spent scrolling through Pottery Barn, Ikea, or something more chic…lunches with our partner or roommate… Then, most of us got the opportunity to work from home and reality set in.
Pottery Barn doesn’t know I have kids…or that my dog gets excited and throws up almost every time Amazon rings the doorbell. At the very least he gets the dry heaves causing my students to ask: “Is something dying?!” Ikea didn’t know that I have adapted my entire life, job, and materials to a new way of life, which doesn’t fit on their oh-so small furniture. This SLP home office is a bit more accurate:
And yet! Working from home can be amazing. It does give us the opportunity to be home more, reach more clients, not commute, and still feel fulfilled. For those of you who have had the experience of working from home, you know that I am talking about a double edged sword. The same freedom can cause stress, overwhelm, overwork, and fatigue.
That is what this article is about. I am here to tell you that, to lean towards the side of speech teletherapy at home that is awesome, we need to get a few things in order, all of which are free. I will make some suggestions if you do want to invest in a few things. This is more important if you are in it for the long haul.
The truth is that teletherapy must-haves do not need to cost you anything past what you already have. When I am talking about must-haves for speech therapy, I am talking about needs that help you get your job done but also retain your health and work-life separation.
I am making the assumption that you have a computer and internet. However, a lot of what many professionals feel are must-haves are really nice-to-haves and may have not been weighed against the prevailing question:
What follows answers this question with a resounding YES!
1. A Designated Space for your Teletherapy Home Office
Find a designated space away from your work space, especially if you are home with spouse/partner, kids, or roommate. Repurpose a table/chair/lamp for your designated space. This is sooo important and why it is #1 on the list of teletherapy must-haves.
We do things and act a certain way in certain places. If you are having trouble “separating from work” at the end of the day, separate your work. I personally cannot always use a dedicated space in my circumstance but I pack up EVERYTHING into my backpack at the end of the day and zip it up. Where am I going? Nowhere. But you know what happens if I don’t? I see it out and am thinking about it, even during a movie. I pass by it and linger over some notes when I was just going to the kitchen.
2. A Dedicated Transition Away from Your SLP Home Office
We are subconsciously influenced by the day’s structure. You used to hear a bell, watch screaming kids pass by your room, go out in the heat, drive for 20 minutes… You had all these environmental cues telling you a transition was taking place. You had all that time to incrementally adjust.
Now what do you do? Swivel your chair around 180 degrees? We need to create this transition – manufacture it. Create a wind-it-up routine that can include:
- Turning on/off lights
- Setting alarm
- Stepping outside
- Change your clothes
- Packing up
- Turn on/off music
These motions will also tell your partner, cat, and children that you are available.
3. Elevate your computer screen and or stand on your feet
Why is elevation or standing one of the teletherapy must-haves? Because your health depends on it. Here are all the things you can avoid by looking up and letting the blood flow in your legs:
- Neck pain
- Shoulder pain
- Fatigue from oxygen reduction from slouching
- Emotional duress from holding a slouched protective posture
- Stopping your nerves from firing on the front of your pelvis and back of your legs
- Pain in the rump!
If you have a laptop, it can be hard to elevate. Put a box, small table, or bin on your desk and switch between sitting and standing. I proofread reports and do email standing.
This is where we head into the “what to spend your money on” a bit for your teletherapy home office. A used monitor and hub to plug your laptop in is worth the money. For $179 at Discount Computers I got:
- A used monitor
- A mouse
- A mouse pad
- A hub that everything plugs into
- A full-sized keyboard.
If you want to splurge, a colleague of mine who decided she won’t be going back to in-person bought this adjustable desk:
4. A box
The Ye-Olde Box is one of two unsung heroes for your teletherapy home office. Let’s face it. You don’t want to pack everything up at the end of the day. This is problematic right? You want to pick up where you left off but also don’t want to think about it all night and ruin your dinner and evening.
A box says: I hate you progress notes, because I can never get you done in one sitting. But i will be back tomorrow.
A box says: Evaluation protocols be damned! You stay right there while I eat my chicken and wake up fresh to begin writing again.
A box says: Mom’s work materials only look like toys. I will cover them up so I don’t repeatedly have to say “PLEASE PLEASE leave them be!”
Again, any box works. But do you have an under-the-bed box or the ones used for storing holiday wrapping paper? Dump that junk out for the time being. They hold every-sized SLP project.
5. Scotch tape
Stuff breaks. Cameras fall. Notes need to be taped to the wall behind your screen. IEP outlines need to be hung up. Scotch tape is the other unsung hero of speech therapy and no teletherapy home office is complete without it. I wonder if scotch tape is mad at post-it notes. They kind of stole its thunder. My colleague shared this “teletherapy camera” with me.
6. Powerpoint, Keynote, or Google Slides
This last of these teletherapy tips relates directly to the services we are providing. There is one thing that has become really apparent after working from home for over a year: There are still some critical aspects of speech-language pathology that need to be maintained, regardless of how services are provided.
- Research indicates that the average (without impairments) child needs 10-12 repetitions of a word before it is learned.
- Language impairments are improved by providing a repetitive structure that a student can practice.
- Generalization of a skill is based on a child’s ability to practice and perfect before trying it out in a new word, phrase, or sentence.
- Speech therapy planning becomes overwhelming if we are constantly reinventing the wheel.
There are no amount of teletherapy tips to keep your clients progressing if structure and repetition are not in place. An easy and free way around this is to use presentation slides to create the structure and repetition.
Here’s what it looks like:
I have two styles of slide decks. I have repetitive structure decks and content specific decks
|Repetitive Structure Slides||Content Specific Slides|
|Session outline||The Hungry Caterpillar|
|How are you feeling today?||FCD with plurals|
|WH questions||/r/,/s/, /l/ Clifford|
|Sequencing||Blue’s Clues Video|
Note that even while I am saying that I am changing up the content specific slides, they are still organized around goals so I can use them with different children.
Basically, you use the content while you are telling the story or doing the activity and use the structure decks to frame the session. The repetitive slides stay the same no matter what the content is.
If you want to download these slides for free and see how to use them, check out: Teletherapy Speech Therapy Materials
7 Speech Teletherapy Tips for the Soul
Now that we have covered the freebies of your teletherapy home office, there is also a list of teletherapy must-haves that relate to your personal growth and health. Let’s face it, your teletherapy home office is, well, AT HOME!
Think of all the time you are not getting ready, not commuting, and not packing your lunch. What are you doing with that time? It wasn’t put towards the job before. How can you use it to create incredible daily practices that you could maintain even if you resume in-person speech therapy. Here is a list of new and oft-forgotten behaviors that can help us to get to the end of the day with fuel left in the tank. Most can be done right in your teletherapy home office.
- Start with meditation and exercise before the day gets away from you. We’re talking even 15 minutes here. Even a walk with your dog.
- Eat a healthy breakfast before starting work. Take a few minutes to enjoy it with a cup of tea/coffee. Why do most of us eat and work? Nothing like scrolling through stressful emails to ensure digestion :).
- Be sure to stretch before/during/after sessions to reduce physical fatigue from being at the computer. Tightness leads to fatigue!
- Drink water. Dehydration leads to fatigue! (Seeing a pattern here?)
- Take a lunch break. For real. Get away from your computer at least for a few minutes.
- Give yourself an ending time. “Come home” from work and allow yourself time to decompress before going right into dinner time. 5 minutes reading, walk around the block, listen to podcast or call friend that you call on your commute, play your guitar, pet your dog.
- Close your computer, put your tasks away like you’re leaving the office and be with your family.