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  • Genna Nichol

Therapy in the Time of COVID-19

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Aspire Speech is currently managing and providing speech and language practice through online teletherapy. As you know, the COVID-19 situation is continuously evolving hour by hour, and so Aspire Speech will be keeping you informed and updated as to when we will return to in-person appointments. For those of you who had therapy sessions and/or new assessments booked with us during our office closure, we will be rescheduling these appointments in the order they were initially booked, once we have received guidance from our regulatory body (CASLPO) and the Simcoe Muskoka Health Unit as to when it is safe to do so.

In the meantime, we are happy to announce that we will be offering telepractice to provide speech and language assessment and/or treatment starting April 1, 2020! You may be wondering if teletherapy is right for you and/or your child and so we have provided answers to common questions you may have below. What is Telepractice? Telepractice allows clinicians to connect with their clients (including, children, parents and/or loved ones) in an online synchronous interaction by using a videoconferencing software (e.g. Zoom). Telepractice can allow speech language pathologists to deliver a wide range of therapy services, including therapy, consultation, and assessment.

Several private and public service providers (including schools and/or school districts) are using teletherapy as a way of delivering a wide range of services, including speech and language therapy. It is especially used in rural areas where there is often a shortage of qualified therapists. In addition, teletherapy is allowing SLP’s in large urban areas to provide service to more individuals, as a result of reduced travel time, etc. and is therefore helping with caseload management.

Is Teletherapy Effective?

There is a wealth of information and research supporting the delivery of speech and language services via telepractice.

Telepractice is recognized as an appropriate model for service delivery by several leading professional organizations, including the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) and the College of Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologist of Ontario (CASLPO) and is used as a means for delivering speech-language therapy, occupational therapy, behavioural and mental health therapy.

For more information on the research behind the use of telepractice with children of various ages including early intervention (Birth to 3 years old) you can visit the following article: Evidence-Based Telepractice for SLPs

Is it Safe and Secure?

SLP’s are bound by provincial regulations through our regulatory body CASLPO. Aspire Speech is committed to maintaining client privacy in accordance with the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA) and Health Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

At Aspire Speech we use a videoconferencing platform called Zoom. We have taken certain measures to protect your personal health information (PHI) by making changes to the settings in our Zoom account, including the following:

  • The content of the session is not recorded or stored in Zoom.

  • Zoom requires encryption for all data between the Zoom cloud, Zoom client and Zoom Room therefore encryption for 3rd party endpoints has been set

  • You or your child’s initials will be used only to “label” the meeting.

  • You will receive a unique password and personal meeting ID that you will need in order to join a session/meeting.

  • Aspire Speech uses a “waiting room” feature where you cannot join a meeting until your therapist allows you to join from the waiting room.

What do I need to get started with Teletherapy Sessions?

  • Computer or Chromebook. An iPad or iPhone will also work

  • Internet access with sufficient bandwidth/internet speed (MiFi/hotspot)

  • Minimum upload/download speed of at least 1MB/s. You can test your Internet speed by visiting Speed Test.

  • Headset with microphone. Your computer/iPad will also have a built-in microphone that may be sufficient. We can test it out!

  • Built-in or external webcam for primary video feed

  • A quiet environment for you and/or your child to engage in therapy!

Extra Tips for a Successful Teletherapy Session:

  • Make sure your child has had a snack, used the bathroom before his/her session begins.

  • Make sure the device you are using is charged or plugged in (laptop)

  • Make sure that other family members are using quiet voices and eliminate background noises (T.V., stereo, etc.) while your session is in progress.

How do I book a Teletherapy session?

You can book your online session by logging into Jane, our online book system. Currently we have spots available on Wednesdays and Fridays. If these spots fill up, we will open more spots. If there are no times/dates that work for your schedule please contact us and we will try and arrange an alternative time that works for both of us.

Future Planning

There are lots of ways to help prevent the spread of germs and protect yourself from the novel coronavirus COVID-19 as well as the flu and other respiratory viruses. The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit continues to say the best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus by taking preventative measures including:

  • wash your hands often with soap and water (or use a commercially-prepared solution)

  • use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if handwashing is not possible

  • avoid touching your face with unwashed hands

  • avoid close contact with people who are ill

  • stay home when you are unwell

  • cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, immediately throw the tissue in the garbage, then wash your hands if you don’t have a tissue

  • sneeze or cough into your elbow

  • clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces

  • practice social distancing – keep 6 feet between yourself and others outside your home, and venture out only when necessary for fresh air and essentials

Thank you for taking the time to read about the new and exciting changes at Aspire Speech.

As always, we look forward to working with you and your loved ones!

Yours in social distancing, Genna Nichol, M.Cl.Sc. (C) Speech Language Pathologist Founder of Aspire Speech

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