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24 Jan. 2023

Is Online Speech Therapy Effective?

A Closer Look at Speech Therapy in the Digital World

One of the biggest changes in our post-pandemic world is the shift to all things digital. From virtual happy hours to online conferences, more and more events are being held on-screen instead of in-person, and the educational world is no exception.

That’s because meeting online offers a number of convenient benefits, from more comfortable clothing (hello, pajama pants) to less travel time. Plus, a digital meeting can offer connections between folks who might otherwise never cross paths – think of a rural student working with an online tutor from the city.

While many forms of tutoring can work successfully online, it can be difficult to be sure your child’s on-screen session is just as effective as one they’d have in the same room with a professional.

In this article, we dive into whether or not an online platform works for childhood speech therapy. Read on as we explore whether online speech therapy sessions and apps are effective for young people.

What is Speech Therapy?

Speech therapy is largely what it sounds like: an effort to help children and adults improve their ability to speak and communicate.

In young children, speech therapy can offer solutions for voice quality issues, language acquisition issues, and even issues related to feeding and swallowing.

Therapists use evidence-based strategies that focus on improving a student’s pronunciation, oral movements, and understanding of verbal and nonverbal language.

What Can Speech Therapy Treat?

Speech therapists evaluate, diagnose, and treat a number of speech and language-related issues.

Language Disorders

Language disorders can make it hard for children to comprehend and use words effectively. These disorders are divided into two main types: expressive (when a child has trouble communicating what they want to say) and receptive (when a child has trouble understanding what is being said to them).

Both expressive and receptive language disorders can make life difficult for children. Telling stories, learning new words, listening to directions, and simply asking questions can all become major challenges for students who struggle with language disorders.

Speech therapy can help by offering a treatment plan based on the child’s areas of strength and weakness. Therapists can identify educational activities, worksheets, and stories to help the child learn to communicate more effectively in a relaxing, encouraging environment.

Speech Delays

Speech delays are another commonly treated issue in the world of speech therapy. Delayed speech typically refers to a child who is not meeting the usual milestones of speech acquisition.

On average, a toddler of two years old is able to say about 50 words, with vocabulary jumping up to roughly a thousand words by age three. A child’s speech is considered delayed when their capabilities fall well below these ranges.

Speech delays are relatively common in preschool students, and can be caused by everything from oral impairment to hearing loss to autism spectrum disorder. Therapists can make a detailed diagnosis and treatment plan for a child with delayed speech to help get to the root cause of the issue.

Therapists can also model correct speech and initiate fun activities to promote speech and vocabulary growth. A good speech therapist will also give parents and caregivers strategies to help encourage a child to speak more at home.

Stuttering

Stuttering, also known as dysfluency, is another common problem that speech therapy helps mitigate. This communication disorder disrupts a child’s natural speaking rhythm, often resulting in sudden stops in speech or the repetition of certain sounds and syllables.

Stuttering can be classified as developmental, when a young child’s speech ability doesn’t quite match up with their verbal demands. This is the most commonly treated type of dysfluency.

Neurogenic stuttering, on the other hand, occurs when there is a disconnect between the brain and the muscles required for speech. This type of dysfluency is usually the result of a stroke or injury.

Psychogenic stuttering, the least common classification, occurs after an emotional trauma and stems from issues with a child’s ability to think clearly.

Whatever type of stuttering a child may experience, speech therapy intervention aims to relieve the problem by providing a uniquely tailored approach to less disrupted speech. Each case is different, but therapists will introduce a variety of exercises to help the child relax, cope, and retrain their brains to avoid stuttering.

Language disorders, speech delays, and stuttering are just a few of the common issues that speech therapists help children overcome every day.

Does Online Speech Therapy Work?

Speech therapy can be a lifesaver for students who might otherwise feel trapped by their struggles to communicate. Many parents wonder, however, if their child can experience success when receiving this treatment online.

In-Person Versus On-Screen: Was There a Difference?

According to a 2009 study published in the Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare, speech therapy online can be just as effective as face-to-face options. The study was conducted over a period of eight months with two groups of school children receiving speech intervention.

The first group underwent four months of speech therapy in a conventional, face-to-face environment, followed by four months of speech therapy in a telehealth treatment setting. The second group had the telehealth treatment first, followed by the in-person option.

Student levels of progress and satisfaction were measured at different points throughout the study. The number of disruptions to the services provided were also taken into account.

By the end of the study period, it was reported that students showed similar progress regardless of their treatment methods. There was no notable difference in their test scores, whether they had experienced virtual or in-person intervention.

Student and parent satisfaction, meanwhile, actually skewed toward the virtual option. Fewer disruptions and distractions, plus the added convenience of working online, may have contributed to their strong levels of support.

Another study published by the International Journal of Telerehabilitation showed similar findings. Students at two elementary schools in rural Ohio participated in either online or in-person speech therapy sessions over the course of several months.

Students included in the study ranged from kindergarten to sixth grade. All were identified as having a communication impairment under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act passed in 2004.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, by the end of the study period, students at both schools showed progress in letter sound formation and speech communication. Regardless of whether they’d met with speech therapists in a virtual or physical setting, receiving the treatment helped these children advance.

Speech Therapy Supplements

While there’s no replacement for a trained therapist, online apps are another great digital strategy to encourage language and speech progress in young children as well.

Consider MIOGYM, a speech app available via Apple Play. This platform, aimed at children between the ages of two to seven, promotes better speech and communication skills by turning common therapeutic exercises into engaging games. MIOGYM grows with your child, as the games level up based on the player’s mastery and progress.

MIOGYM hooks kids by offering colorful, interactive exercises that help them develop correct speech patterns. Whether they’re watching another child model letter sounds or imitating a fun barnyard animal, MIOGYM activities keep kids having so much fun, they may not realize they’re improving their speech.

Incorporating apps like MIOGYM can boost your child’s growth when it comes to speech therapy. Simply playing the games for 20 minutes a day is a painless way to help them build on the skills they’ve practiced in speech therapy.

Evidently, there is no reason why speech therapy can’t be successfully implemented online. Studies show that there is no difference in progress regardless of whether a student’s speech treatment is virtual or in-person. As engaging speech-related apps like MIOGYM roll out, parents have additional online options to help their children’s communication skills grow.

When considering the benefits related to cost, travel, and connection, online platforms can actually help put speech therapy in the hands – and mouths – of more children who need it.

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