Wednesday, March 25, 2020

My Teletherapy Experience So Far...

Earlier today, I posted what felt like a million stories about my experience with teletherapy these last few days. I realized after spending a nice chunk of time recording and uploading that the order was totally messed up. While I'm type B in basically every aspect of life, I'd be lying if I said it didn't bother me lol. So, I took them down, and here we are instead! I figure you can read this at your own leisure (haha, what's that these days), and refer back to it as needed. As I've said, it has only been a few days, but I wanted to share some tidbits that worked. Based on questions you've asked me, here were some hop topics:

1. Teletherapy Guidance: In NYC, SLP's (along with other providers) are expected to provide services based on IEP mandates. It’s basically our regular day but there's a lot of discrepancy between what the teachers in our schools are doing and what we have to do as therapists. It has definitely been frustrating trying to navigate this whole process without clear guidelines. Hopefully we get some reasonable expectations soon! 

2. Consent: It totally has felt like the beginning of the school year having to reach out to parents and gather information. The Department of Education provided us with a script that we were responsible to share with parents verbally over the phone. This was extremely time-consuming. I also had a lot of parents who didn't pick up. The best way I found to get consent was to basically stalk them. I also realized that when I get a call from a number I don't know, I usually don't pick up. So instead, I emailed and texted parents which got me way quicker responses.

3. Scheduling: A few different things here, so I am splitting into parts.

  1. For the most part I think that we should try to follow our schedule as much as we can. It's not our responsibility to try to accommodate every single student and parent. The problem is that many of these parents have more than one child who is receiving services. Some parents have told me that the computer won't be available until X time. In those cases, I'm totally fine being flexible. I also took it as an opportunity to rearrange some groups that I thought would be better together. I think that since I won't have as many scheduling conflicts with teachers or classes, it's much easier for me to do this. I totally recommend doing the same if you've been struggling with mixed groups and you have some flexibility. I have a relatively decent caseload, so it's not too much of a headache for me. 

  1. In the last few days, I already ran into some issues with students still sleeping at certain times. I get it. It’s hard not having a routine for all of us. If you were a tween, would you really still be waking up at 6am if you didn’t have to? However, if we have a scheduled session, I expect you to be up just as you would for school. If you don't show up for a session with me after I reminded you, then I'm marking you absent. We shouldn't have to drive ourselves crazy about whether students will show up or not. I will say that the majority of my students who I have scheduled so far, have been showing up and that's very impressive. I'm going to see how the rest of the week goes. If students don't show up, then I will reach out to the parent and let the student be aware that if they miss sessions I will not be doing makeups. Moving forward it's up to them to show responsibility.

  1. Another huge scheduling help has been the ability to text my students. If there's ever a time I feel extra extra thankful for working with older students, it's right now. I would say that about 90% of my students have cell phones. I either ask parents for their number, email students directly, or found it through my school. I have no issues giving out my number to students. I PROMISE YOU we're not that cool that students will want to text us during non-working hours. If they do, I just don’t plan on responding until the next day. Just as I would if a parent reached out after 3:30pm.  Most of my students have had my number since last week and I haven't gotten any weird texts….yet. Having their number has helped because I have been able to text them to remind them about appointments and just to check if they're going to make it to our session. I don't plan on doing this forever but until we get into a routine I don't have an issue with it .It also avoids them missing it by accident.

  1.  If you are using Google classroom, then Google calendar has been a lifesaver. I literally never used calendars until this week and I already feel like a pro haha. After I've confirmed the time with the student, I create an invite on Google calendar and add the time and date of the session with my student. I make sure to include my students email address and then the invite automatically generates a Google meets room. You can also add a recurring reminder so if your day and time is consistent, you don't have to keep doing it each week. Once you save it, you could send it to the students. Then it goes on your calendar which is a nice visual so you can see what you need to do for the day.It’s also good evidence to show parents that they were reminded about a session. 

4. Platform: Another topic I seperated.

  1. I know there are a ton of platforms that you could be using to do your sessions. However, since my school is using Google classrooms, I plan on using Google meets. To be totally upfront here, I have no intentions of researching other platforms because Google meet serves me fine. I also  don't have the time, energy, or desire to do that lol. I don’t do complicated...I like simple.

  1. From my experience so far, Google meets has been great. There have been some tech difficulties when students enter like the video or mic not working, but I've been able to guide them. I expect that the first week will be full of these difficulties, but eventually it should be fine. My students have had no issues figuring out how to enter the classroom especially once they receive the invite.

  1. Some cool features and really the one that I'll probably use the most, is the fact that you could share your screen and they could share theirs. I have already been able to take advantage of that. I saw some posts about how to make PDF editable on meets so if that's something that you need, you should definitely look into it. There are also extensions that you could use.

5. Lesson Plans: The part that everyone is wondering about!! As soon as I realized we were doing teletherapy, I decided that I am NOT going to be creating my own lessons (unless needed for certain students or as a backup).

  1.  In general my students have a really hard time managing their work when they're in the building. The overall consensus from my students has been that they feel very overwhelmed by the amount of work they need to complete. They’re struggling to understand what they read or need to write without guidance. They have lost consistent support from teachers. I feel like it is unfair to expect them to complete any of my own assignments. 

  1.  I've asked all teachers in my school to add me to their Google classrooms. I plan on incorporating their language goals through their academic coursework. I typically do this anyway with a sprinkle of many of my own activities, but I think now more than ever we really need to be there to support our students academically.

  1. I will say that it definitely feels overwhelming even for me to figure out what's going on in all the different google rooms, but I have somewhat of a plan for that: 

  •  I will choose a subject to focus on for several sessions. Maybe even each week depending on the activity. I will also try to choose tasks and assignments but I could incorporate strategies that we've already used. If it helps you can choose assignments that might take multiple sessions such as a writing unit. Every student probably has at least one class that is making them write an essay. You can incorporate SO MANY writing goals that way. Maybe in some classes they have to do a class novel and it would be super helpful if you could do read-alouds with them during sessions. I group my students based on grade so the majority of them will have the same type of work. If you have mixed grades, like I said, this might be a great time to try to regroup, but only if it benefits you. I'm selfish like that ;) 

Okay, I think that covers ALMOST everything. This is totally uncharted territory for many of us. I am figuring things out along the way and as I go, while also maintaining my home life. I feel anxious and nervous about what is to come, but I will try to do the best I can.I don't really have a choice. My main goal is to support my students. Everything else like nonsense paperwork is secondary. I don't care for busy work. I think we're all doing the best we can with whatever little information we've been given. Don't beat yourself up too much. Get creative and find what works for you!

Stay safe,

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