by Marlene Schoenberg, Ed. M, CCC-SLP
c. Ethnic Communication Arts and Kidspeak (used with permission)
The first interactive TV show in the 1950’s was a program called
“Winkey Dink”. When I was 4 years old, a delightful recruiter
interviewed me at day camp. I auditioned for that show but never got
It was not until March 2020, under extenuating Covid-19 stay-at-home
precautions, that I fulfilled this dream of entertaining children
(with special needs) through video. I had been doing this in face to
face pediatric therapy for years.
In February 2020, my Kidspeak speech/language pathology pediatric home
visit case load was 9 students. For the new distance learning model,
this was decreased to those 6 students who could benefit from this
format (4 in K-1st grade, 2 in HS). It was a steep learning curve for
me at first, until I realized I could draw from many of my
professional and life experiences.
8 weeks later, I earned the title one of my students gave me, “Miss
Marlene Pop”. To soothe my childhood ego, I added the word star. I
learned how to make distance learning pop in a unique way for each
student, making every student a co-star in his/her own customized
speech therapy show.
With families confined to their homes now, SLPs have played important
roles in maintaining their students’ hard-earned communication
skills as well as contributing to sustaining the students’ and
families’ mental health. Having something to look forward to and
making strides forward in skills have never been as essential as in
these difficult times.
Overall, what makes my distance learning sessions with my students
successful is that I know them very well (especially their likes,
dislikes, and typical behaviors). They also know me, my expectations,
and routines. They know we have fun together!
I have creatively drawn from many of my professional and personal life
experiences, including adult aphasia and apraxia therapy, playing the
ukulele and piano, as well as admiring the work of phenomenal
puppeteers, Shari Lewis, and Jim Henson. The yoga, acting, and
improvisation classes I have taken also come in handy! My favorite
singers, Laurie Berkner, Raffi, and Pete Seeger have also been sources
of inspiration for me.
As I share my on-line therapy experiences and provide many practical
examples, I will talk about the 4 phases of good teletherapy:
Careful Planning and Preparation Strategies During the Interactive
Video Session Understanding and Resolving Technical Issues Debriefing
and Follow up. I will integrate parent (and aide) participation in
each of these 4 phases.
This article is the first of 4 segments which will be shared on the
Kidspeak website. Do contact me with your additional insights or
questions. In the 4thSegment, Debriefing and Follow -up, I will add a
section on “Self-care for the Speech Language Pathologist doing
Phase 1- Careful Planning and Preparation
1. Prepare well
Have what you need handy- toys, books, tissues,
lipstick, pens, paper, water, Tic-Tacs, and charts for taking notes.
2. Make your lists
a. Have a pre-check goal and therapy tool list.
b. Have a Tech Trouble-shooting Backup list (This may take making many
mistakes and gathering information from several sources before it can
start working for you.) You will be less frustrated by tech glitches
if you jotted down what may have solved this problem before, plus
brainstorms for several other options.
Find out about the apps that will amaze the child and
start the session with that. Ask the parents what the child enjoys at
home (books, apps, cartoons). Have the apps cued up (as well as songs
and stories related to your goals) on another device (cell phone or
I used the “Get Dressed” app for first graders with excellent
results for attention and verbal communication.
4. Improvise (but stay goal oriented)
a. Plan well but know how to use Improvisation (Improv) to turn on
a dime to achieve your goals. Study improvisation books (See reference
list.), videos, and techniques of favorite improv actors.
I saw my improv teacher perform at Lake Harriet once. For a moment, he
looked stumped by the audience’s suggestion, then he jumped into a
crowd -pleasing routine that I saw him use many times in class. Improv
is based on intensive practice and preparation, although it may look
spontaneous. Build on what the child gives you, change directions
within your goals, come up with new but related ideas, or new ways to
use or combine old activities.
5. Color Zones of Emotions
Familiarize yourself with the school
counselor’s Color Zones of Emotions (Red-Angry, Blue -Sad,
Yellow-Cautious, Green- Good to go, with small gradations of
vocabulary for each).
If you discuss this with the child at a non- emotional time, you have
something to quickly draw upon at a moment of need. He/she may also be
familiar with these emotional concepts from their classroom or special
ed teacher. This will take continual repetition and reinforcement, but
it is worth it.
Have simplified songs about emotions ready- e.g. “Let It Go” from
“Frozen”. In most cases, just use the chorus, as the verses of
this song are too complex for early elementary students. However, the
original sophisticated verses may be just what a middle or high school
student needs to release pent- up emotions and refocus their attention
on speech goals.
6. Plan and Adapt Your Games
Always be searching for new ideas
for games: especially quiz shows which test facts ( for middle
schoolers-HS students) such as: ”“Are you smarter than a
5thGrader”, trivia games on different school subjects, Categories,
Password (or the newer” 25 Words or Less”), or Word Finding back
and forth interactions (Starting the next word with the last letter of
the previous item on different topics). You can use simple games that
work for a child: tic tac toe or simplified Mad Libs (for a review of
meta linguistic terms-adjective, noun, verb) Surprisingly, this is
useful for 1st graders!
I am still working on how to adapt lotto, board games and bingo. I am
copying some board games and tacking them onto a metal tray, using
magnetic letters as markers. Professor Marybeth Plankers, MN State
University at Morehead shared a wealth of ideas about games to use and
adapt online at her April,2020 MNSHA Conference virtual
7. Prep with Parents
a. Make a phone call to the parents before the session (to check on
technology, kid’s fatigue, or unusual stress).
b. Ask parents which apps, cartoons, and characters their child likes
such as: Elmo, Incredibles, Scooby-doo, Dora the Explorer, Kermit the
Frog, Moana, Elsa (Frozen), Pokémon, or Mine-craft.
c. Use books that clients, teachers, and families are using. Sometimes
amazingly first graders will read their books to you (If they are
prepared by the parent and self- motivated). One first grade student
spent 20 minutes reading Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham” to me.
We were working on rhythm, stress, and rhyming words. He preferred
this rather than my planned activity. This activity was perfect for
working on our goals…and it was all the child’s idea!
Coordinate activities with parents and teachers to build on school
activities and the child’s interests. I recently bought four
“Fly Guy” books which were recommended to me. The stories were
quite amusing, repetitive, interactive, and provided a good review of
vowels! Wonky Donkey was also recommended. It teaches adjectives,
memory (like the House that Jack Built) and is enormous fun!
Plan well, involve parents and caretakers, prepare for contingencies,
and hit the ground running! Benjamin Franklin said,” By failing to
prepare you are preparing to fail”. To state this concept in a more
positive light, we can say, “If you prepare well, you will succeed
in meeting your clients’ goals and handling surprises along the
Tune in next week for Segment 2, “During the Interactive Video