I grew up in the Chicago area. I attended Elmhurst University in Illinois for my undergraduate degree and Cal State Long Beach for my graduate degree. My undergrad degree was in speech pathology and my graduate degree was in communication disorders. My husband and I are celebrating our 40th anniversary this year. I have three grown daughters, one grandson, and a second granddaughter on the way. I like to exercise and I like to spend time with my family, and be outdoors as much as I can.
In addition to teletherapy, I work at two local clinics in the area. I volunteer at a nearby hospital with my therapy dog. The pandemic halted services for a while but we are now back at the hospital visiting patients and staff.
My dogs are my love and joy—I’ve had four certified therapy dogs in the program. I thoroughly enjoy that in my free time. The dogs used to work with me when I was in the school district. I did a little bit of home health, and with permission, I was able to bring the dogs in with some of the geriatric families and they loved that.
What inspired you to become an SLP?
You know, it’s so funny. When I was a kid there was a movie about Helen Keller with actors Patty Duke and Ann Bancroft called The Miracle Worker. That film inspired me when I was a kid, and I always leaned in that direction. I actually started out as an occupational therapist and then I switched into speech therapy. It’s just been my passion all along which is why I retired from the school setting in 2016, and am still working because I really love what I do.
What made you want to be a teletherapist with PL?
Everybody was forced into online therapy with the pandemic but I had been looking into teletherapy five or six years ago, long before it became the thing to do. The entire field was transitioned to online therapy with the pandemic, however, I had been exploring teletherapy 5 or 6 years ago. I just jumped right into it on a popular business video call app because that was the only way to see my students and families.
It amazed me how some of the children that I thought would not do well in teletherapy just flourished. I worked with a little 3-year-old who was just diagnosed with autism. I saw him for a few months before the pandemic lockdown began. He was nonverbal, couldn’t be touched, and had no eye contact. The parents contacted me asking if we could work together via teletherapy since face-to-face therapy was not an option. I worked with this family via teletherapy for a whole year. The child just blossomed. This child was introduced to an augmentative communication system during the course of the year and continues to use this system today.
I researched many teletherapy companies prior to talking with PresenceLearning. PL has been in business for 12 years and was highly regarded on social media websites. They offered the use of their curated library with a plethora of therapy materials and a variety of assessments.. They checked all the boxes that fit my needs as a clinician. We were a great fit.
Also, that ability to have Customer Account Managers (CAMs) and Clinical Quality & Resource Managers (CQRMs) available for support is extremely helpful. The continual feedback and support available when you are onboarding is huge. The online videos, technical support and chat rooms are also an added bonus.
My goal is eventually to continue to work primarily in teletherapy.
What do you enjoy about being a provider with PL?
I enjoy the flexible schedule and the ability to work nationwide from a variety of locations. I enjoy the opportunity to work from home and take time during the day to exercise or walk my dogs. I especially appreciate the technical support and provider support that is offered and the prompt response to questions and technical issues. There are many ways to find out answers to questions via the website or through direct contact with PL staff or other PL members.
Could you walk us through your daily routine? A “day in the life of a PL therapist” if you will?
I try to schedule all remote therapy sessions on the same day or schedule in-person therapy sessions in the AM and remote therapy in the PM. For my PL therapy, I typically check my lesson and materials the night before to make sure that I have what I need—I’ll often add a few extra items to the queue “just in case.” I start my day by immediately turning on my computer to check the internet connections to make sure that everything is working. I complete a morning yoga workout prior to working with clients. The best part of remote therapy is that the schedule is varied so I am able to walk my dogs during breaks in my schedule or complete a household chore in the middle of the day and not have to complete it all after a long day at the clinic.
How has the PL platform enabled you to help your students and schools?
Documentation is the most time consuming part of the day in the life of an SLP. The platform has helped to organize the documentation process. I especially like the option to use the metrics and write SOAP notes right on the PL platform. The other piece that I found very helpful was the data collection capability—that you could just put in the information and it ticks off the actual percentage. You can write your notes in there and it all goes to the SOAP notes online. You enter it once and it sends it. So I like that a lot. The PL platform is doing the calculations for me toward the goal. I don’t have to sit and write that whole piece out. It helps to streamline it. I still spend time on it but the streamlining piece is big—when I’ve seen five kids and I’m trying to write up their progress notes before I move on to my other job, it’s great to just get it all done and it’s nice that everything uploads so I love that feature.
I also like the opportunity to peruse and do evaluations online, and there is a plethora of tests to choose from. I like the materials that are available.
I like the ability to offer animations and emoji rewards. I found that one little guy with autism needed immediate feedback, so I like the fact that you have a button on the side that lets you give immediate animations and rewards. And the feature to be able to disable their mouse when they get click happy is great. I use it when I need to get the kids’ attention. I find that to be very, very helpful. I also like the ability to add SMS reminders for families.
What were you most surprised about when you made the transition to be a teletherapist?
I had considered pursuing teletherapy long before the pandemic. The onset of the pandemic pushed my hand and many families into an unfamiliar place when schools and clinics could only offer remote options. Many families were worried that their children would not respond well to remote therapy. I really enjoyed thinking outside the box. I was surprised how many families were willing to give it a try so their children did not lose precious therapy time.
What challenges have you faced and how have you worked to overcome them?
When I started teletherapy prior to working for PL, the technical aspects were the most difficult. The key with learning the technical aspects before PL was research, practice, persistence, and patience. I joined many Speech Pathology websites on social media, scoured online videos for ideas, and collaborated with colleagues.
The best part of the transition to teletherapy with PL was the number of resources available through the Help Center, Telehealth Institute, and The Lounge. I just play on things. I mentored with another member and we talked through things together. I have people now who are emailing me and saying Hey, let’s meet so we can grow together. I watched the videos which were really helpful over and over again because when you watch something once, you get an overview and then you have to master the details. Watching the videos over again, I realize, Oh, they talked about this, now I’m going to pinpoint on that and figure that out. It helps a lot.
I like that PL has a search engine so you can look for specific things—that was wonderful as well.
I think I’ve read through every document. Every day I would go into the TeleHealth Institute and the Help Center and try to figure it out. It is overwhelming at first so it’s also nice when I would get the weekly newsletter with reminders and articles with links about how and when to do various things.
My Clinical Quality & Resource Managers (CQRM) would send me important links. And then I would pass those links along to the other newbies because we would text each other all the time. I would ask if they got this link for what to do for the end of the school year, let them know what has to be done, and we’d compare notes.
How do you collaborate with teachers and other school staff?
I collaborate with teachers and staff members primarily through email. I encourage teachers and staff members to contact me via text, email, or phone calls. I started working for PL during the busiest time of the year, with schools in various stages of transition back in person due to the pandemic. Schools and staff are overwhelmed. I try to make sure the emails are succinct, professional, and friendly. It has been especially helpful to have a liaison that has been assigned from the school district to work with the PL therapists.
How do you build trust and rapport with parents?
I like to introduce myself to families via text message or email prior to the start of the first therapy session. I encourage families to contact me via text, email, or phone if they have questions or concerns. I sometimes send families a short text after the therapy session (for the families that are not part of the session) to let them know how their child is doing.
What tips do you have for other providers getting started with telepractice?
I started mentoring with people. I posted in The Lounge to ask, Hey, I am new, does anyone want to practice? I would be the client or they would be the client so we could see what the client sees. It was nice to have the ability to do that. So take advantage of the mentoring piece and connect with other therapists doing what you do.
PresenceLearning works to your strengths—that is the key. You have the option to say yes, I would be great with that—it’s right up my alley. They’re very, very good at plugging in the right people for the right students. Presencelearning just worked for me, it was a fit. And that’s the thing—you have to find your perfect fit. PresenceLearning is a good company to explore.
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