Teletherapy Tips for Gestalt Language Processors

teletherapy Nov 29, 2023

We can support gestalt language processors virtually through teletherapy and/or working closely with parents through consultations. It may involve getting familiar with a number of virtual tools, family/caregiver involvement and a bit of thinking on your feet. However, child-led therapy is absolutely possible during virtual sessions! If you’re unable to work directly with the child for a number of reasons, consider a consultative model with parents/caregivers. Here are some tips on virtual options. 

Tips for teletherapy

    • Follow their lead. Child led therapy is possible with virtual sessions. You may come with activity suggestions, but you’ll want to honor what the child is interested in engaging with. If they want to move around, engage with toys, items or games that they have with them, choose another activity they know you can do virtually, etc. That’s okay! What's most important is the LANGUAGE. Modeling the language the child needs, but also listening and acknowledging what they are saying as well as honoring silence so that spontaneous language can emerge.
    • Learn to use some virtual tools. Some of our favorite tools to use during virtual sessions include…
      • Doc cam: allows you to project and manipulate objects like books, toys, etc. for the child. 
      • Canva: create custom visuals, books, videos, etc. Check out some ideas here
      • Movement games & activities (e.g. Stop and Go, Freeze Dance)
      • Green screen or virtual background activities (e.g. Go Go Speech, Google images) 
      • Boom cards: interactive activities and games (You can find a lot on TPT)
      • iPad screen share apps, great for modeling AAC! (e.g. AirServer
      • Epic books: explore online story books, audiobooks & more! (If you’re in the USA your public library may have a free subscription to Tumblebooks or a similar online story book site)
  • Involve family/caregivers. They may need to move the camera around so you can follow along with what the child is engaging in, help with any tech issues, ensure safety, and join in on the fun! 
  • Use the same strategies you would use in person. It’s all about the language and less about the activities/environment. These strategies include… 
    • Always acknowledge all communication. You can acknowledge communication in a number of ways. Whether you know what the child is trying to communicate at that moment or not. You can smile, nod your head, repeat a gestalt back to them, say “yeah!”, etc. Let them know that their communication is heard.
    • Do the detective work. Try and figure out what the child is trying to communicate. Once you think you know, model what you *think* they’re trying to say. You may not get it right at first, keep at it! They’ll let you know if you’re right.
      Child: “Hot soup!”
      Adult: “I’m hungry mom!”
      The child isn’t requesting hot soup in this situation. After some detective work, the adult discovers that the child says this when they’re hungry. Therefore, they model “I’m hungry!” for the child. 
    • Eliminate the questioning. Instead use declarative language, narrate and comment. We often ask children questions as a way to connect with them. Most gestalt language processors cannot reliably answer questions until they’re self-generating language (Stages 4+), so frequent questioning can become frustrating on both sides. Instead, try commenting, narrating and pausing.
      Example: Instead of… 
      *sees a cat run by*
      Adult: “Johnny, what is that running by?”
      Child: *no response*
      *The child isn’t left with a mitigable (easy to mix and match) model to use in the future when they see a cat, they will likely repeat the question asked*
      Adult: “Look! It’s a cat!”
      *The child has a mitigable model that they can use in the future when they see a cat*

Parent/professional consultations

We can also support gestalt language processors by working directly with parents and/or professionals on their team. Sometimes we’re not always able to start working directly with the child. Waiting lists for speech therapy are very long in many parts of the world. 73.6% of speech-language pathologists surveyed from 10 countries reported having a waiting list in their workplace and waiting times ranged from 0 to 42 months (McGill et al, 2021). We have a huge problem in the field of speech-language pathology right now. Following a consultative model can help! This typically involves setting up a one time, weekly or monthly virtual consultation with families via Zoom or phone. During these consultations you may… 

  • Review and discuss home video review and analysis
  • Language sample review and analysis
  • Discuss strategies to support the child in various settings
  • Review IEPs/treatment plans and provide goal suggestions 
  • Discuss AAC customization and implementation
  • Discuss classroom/school support 

In the USA, speech-language pathologists can do this nationwide as long as they aren't servicing the child directly (must be licensed in the state where the child resides to service them directly per ASHA). 

Looking for parent or professional consultations? Book a virtual consultation with an NLA-Trained SLP from our partner clinic, Social Butterfly Inc. to get support, answers and guidance as a parent or professional supporting gestalt language processors. English & Spanish consultations are available. 

If you're looking for a neurodiversity-affirming speech-language pathologist locally or in your home country/state be sure to visit our registry. These SLPs are all knowledgable about gestalt language processing and child-led therapy and many offer virtual consultations as well. 

Want to learn more in-depth information about how to support gestalt language processors?

1. There are many free podcasts, webinars and articles to get you started. A comprehensive list of resources can also be found on our website.

2. Consider taking the Meaningful Speech course to learn more about how your child or client processes language, how you can help support them from echolalia to self-generated (original flexible) language, child-led therapy, and neurodiversity-affirming practices. Looking for something shorter? We have a 1-hour introductory course perfect for extended family, daycare or school staff.

3. Consider taking our AAC + Gestalt Language Processing course. It will teach you how to identify, evaluate and support gestalt language processors who use AAC or who you think might benefit from AAC.

4. Look for a speech-language pathologist (SLP) who "gets it" and can help you in supporting your child's language development. Check out our registry for SLPs who understand gestalt language processing and child-led therapy.

5. Are you a school-based or private practice clinician looking for intake forms for new clients/students or creative visual reminder posters for your space? Check out the Meaningful Speech Marketplace.

Take me to