Teletherapy: A Speech Therapist’s Perspective

“We’re going to Zoom what?” “Teletherapy?!” “Do our clients have WiFi at home?” These were some of the questions I heard buzzing around during our last in-person staff meeting at Abbott & Burkhart Therapy. That was over a month ago when 27 of our therapists and specialists gathered in the gym at our clinic for an urgent meeting to discuss the option of closing down the clinic and rethinking our service delivery practices. We talked all things COVID 19, social distancing and as anticipated, moving our sessions onto a teletherapy platform.

I was feeling calm among a sea of therapists who were clearly nervous and anxious about what was on the technology horizon. My perspective was not as daunting as the rest of the therapy staff as I have been utilizing teletherapy for the past several years with clients from around the country and the West coast.  A practice that I stumbled upon nearly a decade ago when I had a new client reach out to me from the East coast and thus began the first of many years of my teletherapy practice. Since then, a portion of my private practice for the handful of clients that I still see, remains online because of convenience, distance, illness and catastrophic incidents such as the Santa Barbara mudslides. 

At the beginning of this endeavor, the Coronavirus pandemic had therapists and families from ABT contemplating a teletherapy practice knowing that we were all in this for the long haul. The thought of it was a bit intimidating for everyone except for myself as I was the sole therapist with any teletherapy experience. Not only was I comfortable and at ease with this platform, but I saw this time as a challenge to step up my game in the teletherapy world and to see how to best serve my clients from screen to screen. After that meeting, we acted fast and pulled together a training module for staff and within 4 days, the majority of the ABT therapists were up to speed and ‘Zooming’ with our clients in the most amazing and creative ways.

A month in, teletherapy has many of us online for 5 to 8 hours each work day with our clients as we are now all settling into this very viable and productive practice. We sing songs, have scavenger hunts around client’s homes, set up obstacle courses, utilize online digital programs, play shoots and ladders while practicing speech sounds, do yoga poses and string beads: a surprisingly new norm for our entire staff that we never anticipated. Even my dog has gotten in on the act and frequently greets the kids and does tricks for them as they are signing on and starting their therapy with me. And although the in-person sessions may have become a thing of the past, at least for now, as sit on our perspective sides of a computer screen daily with toddlers and school-age children, we’re making this work in fun and creative ways.

From a ‘silver lining’ perspective, not only have we expanded our own therapeutic perspectives, be we have become a richer part of our client’s family structures during this global pandemic that we were not privy to in person. We have met family pets, visit with our clients in their backyards and have been introduced to extended family members previously unknown to us. And while this is an extremely sad and tragic time for society, these bonds with our clients now run at a much deeper level. There have been both tears and laughter from the stories and conversations. Recently, a kindergarten boy that I work with was beside himself when he first came onto our Zoom meeting because a bat had flown into their house and was hiding in his grandparent’s bedroom closet in the middle of our session. It made for an interesting conversation yet I couldn’t help but think to myself that I had no idea his grandparents lived with him.

  Who would have ever thought that our once buzzing clinic would turn into a ghost town and we’d all be in our perspective homes conducting therapy from our dining room tables, living room floors and backyards. But, we are truly making this work, stretching our creative juices and stepping up to the plate, beyond our own levels of comfort. And after 32 years of practicing as a licensed speech and language pathologist, I am grateful for this opportunity as I understand that we all have the honor of continuing to serve our clients and their families, even if in the most unexpected ways.

Dee Anne Barker, MA, SLP

Teaching Kids to Eat: Using Baby Led Weaning & Motor Learning Theory

Date and Time: Sun, November 5, 2017, 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM PST

Location - Abbott & Burkhart Therapy


Are your clients and families struggling with the transition from breast or bottle feeding to eating solids? Working with clients stuck on purees, unable to move on to harder chewables? Concerned about chocking and how to help your clients progress in a safer manner? This 7-hour class for occupational therapists will introduce the clinician to the current research and recommendations regarding solid food feeding and learning to chew. The class will focus on traditional and alternative methods of introducing solids, as well as the reasoning behind choosing one approach over another. By applying principles of sensory and oral motor development as well as motor learning theory, clinicians will develop a strong understanding of safe, yet effective solid food introduction in both typical and atypical populations for enhanced therapy outcomes.

The Neurobiology of Swallowing & Dysphagia

Date and Time

Fri, Nov 3, 2017, 8:00 AM – Sat, Nov 4, 2017, 3:30 PM PDT

Location - Abbott & Burkhart Therapy

Working towards your advanced practice (SWC)? This is the perfect foundational course to start your training. Seasoned dysphagia clinician looking for clarity? Although the perfect challenge for beginners, this course will deepen your understanding of the physiologic foundations of feeding and swallowing and take your treatment to a new level. This two-day workshop provides an in-depth exploration of the biomechanical, neurological, and sensory components of normal and abnormal swallowing. Participants will walk away with increased understanding of the neuromuscular control of swallow physiology, and be able to confidently apply this knowledge to day-to-day practice. Through lecture, modified barium swallow study videos, case studies focused on signs/symptoms, dysfunctions, and impairments, and interactive activities, course participants will acquire the knowledge to assertively address the complex occupation of feeding.