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Episode Summary

Our guest on this episode of the All About Kids podcast is Phillipa Ross, a speech-language pathologist who is completing her clinical fellowship with AAK. Phillipa shares her perspectives on the abrupt shift to teletherapy in the midst of COVID-19, discussing both the challenges and the opportunities that the digital platform present for having meaningful interactions with her clients. These current circumstances emphasize the importance of being flexible and sensitive, treating each client and each session in a unique way to best serve the clients and their families.

For younger clients, Phillipa has found that building rapport with their parents and finding out what activities or characters they like goes a long way in connecting with the child. This communication channel with the parents is also important when it comes to being informed in a timely manner about cancellations or absences, which have a way of disrupting every therapist’s day-to-day. Phillipa leaves listeners with the advice to evaluate each child as a whole, not just looking at the results of a specific test, and helping those closest to the child understand how their challenges could be impacting their day-to-day habits and routines.

Episode Notes

Phillipa’s journey to becoming a speech-language pathologist:

  • She realized her passion for speech therapy during a communications class in her undergrad, which led to her majoring in speech therapy and pursuing her graduate degree in the field.
  • During her externship, she worked with a special education preschool and realized that she liked working with all ages of clients.
    • (2:05) – “The great thing about speech therapy is you’re working with everybody from EI all the way to geriatrics.”
  • She is now almost finished with her year-long clinical fellowship with All About Kids.

COVID-19 has had a drastic impact on her work:

  • Prior to the pandemic, Phillipa realized that she wanted to learn how to be more flexible in her sessions, so she has certainly had to learn how to do that the past few months.
      • (3:38) – “From being a traveling speech therapist and now working teletherapy, it has totally shifted my perspective on what will work for each child.”
  • Every day has different challenges.
      • (4:12) – “I think the biggest thing is still trying to be as creative as possible with that limited human interaction.”
  • Learning how to target the clients’ goals and still garner some engagement during therapy has been a challenge.
  • Give yourself credit for trying.
      • (5:29) – “We are all thrown into this and as long as you’re doing the best that you can every day you have to give yourself credit at the end of the day. You’re trying to take care of your own mental health and provide services to these children, and it’s a balance of the two.”

Phillipa’s biggest takeaways from her clinical fellowship year:

  • Try not to plan too much, but rather have realistic expectations for each child and each session.
    • (6:55) – “That’s been my biggest takeaway from this year: being more flexible and being able to adjust what you’re doing right then and there.”
    • Be mindful of and sensitive towards who you are working with.
    • Certain types of therapy such as articulation therapy can be difficult to implement over teletherapy.
    • (9:21) – “Some children are super perceptive of those cues and you can get really close to the computer, but some kids rely so much on tactile prompts and direct visual models right in front of them.”
    • (10:10) – “There are so many different sensory outputs that you’re not getting over the platform.”

Positions or beliefs that have shifted for Phillipa over the past few years:

  • The need for mindfulness and sensitivity towards each client has become very important.
  • (10:37) – “To curate an environment that a child feels comfortable in has been a big thing for me and continually building good rapport with these children is really important and knowing that it is an ongoing process.”
  • Establishing good rapport with the parents was something that Phillipa wasn’t taught in school but it is crucial every day.
    • (12:10) – “Also I think it’s important for my school-aged clients to make sure that they’re involved in the therapy too – understanding what their goals are and always asking them what they want to work on as well and incorporating their interests.”
    • You can make extravagant plans for the session, but speech and language skills can be built in so many ways, so play with them and get on their level.

Phillipa provides her perspective on a few common hurdles in the speech therapy industry:

  • Restoring clients’ lost focus can be done through redirection and giving them options.
  • Restoring your own lost focus between teletherapy appointments could look like meditating, listening to music, or just doing something outside.
    • (15:16) – “In teletherapy and now working from home, it’s a little more challenging to separate yourself from work.”
    • The lack of a standard cancellation timeframe or fee structure is the main thing that bugs Phillipa about the speech therapy industry.
      • (19:36) – “Knowing how much time I spend tailoring each activity and lesson to each child and goal takes a lot of time.”

Social media is a great resource for activities, other perspectives, and community:

  • (20:47) – “There are so many great therapists out there who have such great resources to target each goal. My Instagram is pretty much just speech-related at this point.”
  • Phillipa’s recommended Facebook groups are in the links below.
  • What do people get wrong about speech therapists?
    • Most people think that speech therapists only treat the “r” sound.
      • (24:16) – “Eating, swallowing, and communicating are 3 of our biggest human necessities and speech therapists target all 3 of them.”
      • In fact, speech therapists work with everything from the brain to the lungs.
      • (25:36) – “Speech is the most complex thing we do as humans.”

Phillipa’s final advice for speech therapy professionals:

  • When it comes to evaluations, look at the child holistically, not just how they perform during a test.
  • Time is best managed by keeping lists and prioritizing what is important in the moment.
  • Part of your job is to help the parents and teachers around the client to understand how their challenge affects them day-to-day.


PreSchool SLPs Facebook Group

Telepractice for SLPs Facebook Group

EI Telepractice Facebook Group

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