I’ll be honest. I was bathing in a tub of scalding anxiety when I found out I needed to shift my 13-year-old client, who uses a dynamic communication device, to teletherapy. I appreciated the ease of my face-to-face sessions with Gian–his requesting an icy cold soda following the session, my modeling (and joking) about how his need to have the ceiling fan on high was turning me into an ice cube, and both of us commenting about his favorite World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) superstars. Alexa Bliss is his she-ro. At the heart of it all, I missed seeing him and his family.
I scheduled our first teletherapy session using AAC with Alicia, Gian’s mother. Between access to online platforms (Zoom or Google Duo), availability of the family with current demands and needs of COVID-19, technological breakdowns, SLP breakdown and restructuring of the therapy activities, I kept moving forward with minimal oxygen from my shallow, fretful breathing. You know what happened? I saw Gian excitedly waving at me from his new work space, their kitchen table. I felt Alicia’s energy when she said, “OK! We are ready for you!,” smiled widely and simultaneously made lunch in the background.
I forgot about the details. Then, I remembered (and felt) the people. I remembered the relationship and rapport I had with Gian, his sister Megan and his mother. I remembered the fun we always had talking about bowling and wrestling. I remembered why I chose to join our profession–to connect and support others on their daily communication journey. As I relied on my humanity to carry me through the session, he began to use his device. With Alicia now modeling the utterances with my support, the outcomes were pretty on point compared to our face-to-face sessions. Like, whoa!
We are now four sessions into our AAC telepractice adventure. Yesterday, as we began the session, Alicia showed me that she programmed “soup” into his communication system to prepare for the session–the session coincides with his lunchtime, and we have used this functional routine to support his communication. This was surely the first of many buttons programmed into his device by his dedicated mother.
Then, Alicia needed the word “hot.” With some SLP flexibility, Zoom’s annotated feature and some humor, she found it and modeled, “You want soup. It’s hot!”
Here is an authentic glimpse into our session:
Teletherapy Using AAC and YOU, YOU, YOU
You, SLP, have always been the nucleus of your work. The speech-language sessions and assessments are phenomenal because of YOU. Your efforts and your heart fuel it all. As we transition to telepractice using AAC, the most meaningful tool is still YOU. This is your truth, and your sacred path. You are an SLP, and you continue to change the world.
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