Online Speech Therapy Can Get Kids Talking from the Comfort of Home

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Online speech therapy can help kids work on speech problems from home.

Every child feels braver when mom and dad are around–and when they’re on their own turf. That’s the secret ingredient that gives telemedicine its power to disrupt juvenile healthcare.

Your pediatrician’s office is strewn with toys to create a welcoming environment so your child will be more agreeable during a check-up, right? But where on Earth could a child feel more relaxed than sitting in their own room, with their own toys, and with their parents at their side?

With a webcam and a laptop–or even just your phone–you can invite a doctor via telemedicine into your child’s territory and conduct an examination on their terms, making everything seem like less of a big deal.

Speech disorders, for example, are something many children go through in their early years but which some grow out of naturally as they develop. If your child is struggling to be understood, however, you’ll want to have them examined by an expert eye (and ear). Online speech therapy can bring a doctor into the comfort of the child’s own home while letting your child stay where they feel their bravest.

Three Million Americans Stutter

Almost 10% of young children in the U.S. will suffer from a speech disorder. By the first grade, however, the figure drops by half, and as children grow into their late teens, the percentage slides closer to three. That still leaves around three million people with a disorder such as a stutter, but clearly, for most, things improve with age.

Part of that is due to a naturally occurring correction that comes with the trial and error process of learning language, and part of it can be attributed to medical intervention. There are many different forms of speech disorder that require different treatments, but generally, professional therapists introduce exercises to strengthen muscles in the face and throat, breathing techniques, and ways of slowing down and smoothing out speech. With the advent of telemedicine, those same treatments can be applied and reinforced from the comfort of the young patient’s home.

Online Speech Therapy Across the U.S.

Telemedicine has yet to be given the green light in every state in the U.S.–Texas approved the use of telemedicine only earlier this year–but several online speech therapy providers are up and running across the country. The Hello Foundation, for example, currently has therapists operating out of more than a dozen states, with around the same number of states waiting on licensing and forming waiting lists.

Hello, as is typical of other online services such as Presence Learning, VocoVision, and the UK’s Mable, is a mix of live video calling sessions with a speech therapist and learn-at-your-own speed modules that play out like video games. The patient is taken through the same examinations, exercises, and techniques they’d undertake during an in-person visit, with the bonus of an array of multimedia elements, such as attention-capturing animations.

Each of these online services can be used without anything more technical than an affordable webcam capable of faithfully relaying a child’s facial movements and the sounds they produce–and even HD webcams fit in the affordable category now. With that limited technological investment, the waiting rooms and unfamiliar doctors’ offices can be replaced with regular virtual visits at home.

Therapeutic Video Calling

Studies have shown that children respond positively to video calling, especially when they have an established relationship with the person on the other side of the screen. So if you’ve spotted the symptoms of a speech disorder in your child–and they can be subtle–and you’ve set up a session with a virtual therapist, it might be wise to introduce the video calling concept with a few Skype calls to a relative or playmate.

You could even set up a special place in the house, or their room, where you regularly make calls. Routine is important in making children feel secure and relaxed in their little worlds, so the more familiar video calling becomes the more likely they’re going to feel comfortable and behave as perfect patients.

Research has shown that telemedicine can deliver medical treatments just as effectively as an in-person visit, opening up the possibility of comprehensive virtual healthcare. And because it brings an increased level of comfort by letting patients stay at home, it could open up a whole new way of diagnosing and treating childhood ailments.

Image Source: Flickr CC User Philippe Put

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