SLP Lori Caplan-Colon sprang into action once COVID-19 struck her community and her patients, calling upon ASHA and her CCCs to help her
As the COVID-19 pandemic began to take hold across the country, speech-language pathologist Lori Caplan-Colon found herself in uncharted territory. She knew social distancing guidelines and shelter-at-home orders meant her northern New Jersey practice would have to close its doors for the foreseeable future, even though the vital work she and her team did with their clients remained. Some families had already started reaching out, concerned about if their therapy would continue.
“When it really started to impact our community, I was trying to do everything I could because we were completely devastated that everything was being ripped away from us and these families,” she says. “We did what we had to do because these families needed us.”
Within a matter of days, Lori quickly adjusted to the “new normal” by offering teletherapy services. With so many questions still swirling, she called upon both ASHA as well as her ASHA certification to navigate these uncertain times. She wanted to ensure she was still employing the best practices and living up to the ethical standards that her CCCs have given her.
“We invest so much time into our kids and they work so hard to make so much progress, so how can we just stop?” she says. “We couldn’t, but we wanted to make sure we were also giving them the best we could.”
Early on, Lori recognized that she would have to change her approach to her sessions. While the in-person dynamic allowed for a direct level of engagement, keeping children’s attention was now more difficult to do through a screen. Rather than rely primarily on face-to-face exercises and worksheets as she could before, she came up with activities to keep the children interested and progressing in their treatment, such as cooking or playing outside, all while incorporating the lessons into them. Her ingenuity and creativity were such that she was featured on Good Morning America in a story showcasing how health-related professionals are adjusting to life in a pandemic.
“What I don’t know about technology, I’m making up for in enthusiasm,” Lori jokes.
She also came to realize the role that parents were now playing in these sessions. Not only were they present to set up the screens and monitor to make sure their children were participating, but they were also involving themselves more directly in ways that weren’t entirely possible previously when the children would get dropped off at the office for a session.
“I’m relying on them to do what I would usually do in person, including offering supportive hand positions to the oral structures or would make or offer oral placement techniques to achieve the oral motor patterns needed, and can coach them in real-time to make sure they’re doing it right,” she says. “It has brought us so close and I am so proud of our families for sticking with it and doing just amazing work.”
“Finding time in their busy days to schedule everything else and to take care of their families during this time is not easy, but they’re committed and so am I, doing all I can to help them,” Lori added.
She credits ASHA and her CCCs for helping guide her and her practice through the instances of ambiguity. “I have definitely called over to ASHA more in the last couple of months than I ever had my entire career,” she says.
The organization has not only provided her with resources for all the recent changes in response to the pandemic, but also served as a refresher for her CCCs. She saw just how second nature her training had been and how it was kicking in not just during this time, but throughout her career.
“I can’t imagine that anyone would do what we do without their CCCs,” she says. “You just start to realize that you can’t be as prepared and ready to do the right, appropriate, ethical thing without them, and it’s because of the process and what we go through to get our certification.”
It’s through this spirit of the CCCs that Lori knows she will continue working to make sure that she is not just providing her patients with their regular therapy sessions, but doing so in the best, most effective way possible.
“I will never stop,” she says. “I just want to keep growing and expanding to help more people.”