Karen McBride, CCC-SLP, is a lead clinician with PresenceLearning. She currently lives in Pawling, New York. Karen started working as an SLP in 1980. She was ripe for change and started researching teletherapy. After trying it out, she made the shift. Karen joined the PL Care Network in 2011 and in 2014, added the lead clinician role to her therapy work.
Could you walk us through your daily routine? A “day in the life of a PL therapist” if you will?
My workday is different every day. Generally, I will start with a birth-to-3 program in Maine. That population is my passion. I provide services to East Coast districts but as the day moves forward my other schools in Michigan, Missouri, Idaho and California start opening up and my birth-to-3 children in Maine are taking naps. I fill in any gaps in my schedule with Lead duties for districts across the U.S.
My responsibilities have included providing services for children outside of the U.S.—London, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Germany. Many of these families were American expatriates, usually military families. I love the variety. PL has provided a regular schedule when I desired that option—the choice has always been mine. When I took the lead clinician position, my world broadened. In my field, as an onsite early interventionist, this lead position wouldn’t have been open to me. It’s something unique to PresenceLearning and a wonderful opportunity for an SLP with an Early Intervention specialty.
What is your favorite or most successful way of engaging with those younger students?
Puppets. I have dozens of puppets. And on the platform we have a steam train video—it is visually engaging, it’s loud, it’s big, and even has steam! The little boys are so excited they can hardly believe it. The train goes across the screen and they control it by gesturing or saying “go” or “stop.” They are 100% on top of that. When children feel they can control their environment and make their needs known with words and/or gestures, family interactions are enhanced.
What made you want to become a teletherapist with PL?
I worked with the birth-to-3 population in New York and drove all day long. Every 45 minutes I would travel between family’s homes. I would spend more time traveling than working with children. In the winter, I have been stuck in the families’ driveways with no one to help. I was ready for a change. I researched telepractice as an alternative because it was important to me to be on the cutting edge of my field and expand my skill set. I started at 10 hours a week to try it out. I loved it and went full time. I would never go back now.
What do you enjoy about being a provider with PL?
We have the most advanced virtual therapy room in the field. I work with teams of highly qualified speech pathologists that share the same love of our field and love of children that I do.
I have flexibility and a wider variety of responsibilities than ever before.
How do you connect with your colleagues when you need ideas?
We have a social network within PL. We can reach out to our colleagues in the PL Care Network at any time. There are literally hundreds of SLPs an instant message or phone call away. Until I worked with PL, that had never been my experience.
What were you most surprised about when you made the transition to be a teletherapist?
I had no idea how engaging telepractice could be. I forge the same relationships with children and their families as I did when visiting them in their homes and still get virtual hugs and even an occasional lunch. For example, one child is working on expanding her receptive vocabulary. She has a basket of play food items and I say aloud the items I would like for lunch. She feeds them to me by touching them to my lips on the computer screen and I gobble them up. I say “all done” and she places the item in a bowl that is lying on top of a folder placed on the keyboard. I then chose another food item and repeat the process.
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