Updated: Mar 23, 2021
As a member of the 21st century, we all have a mutual friend that gives us information at our fingertips: the Internet. However, this friend can be a little fickle, and sometimes an outright failure, when it comes to reliability. If you need guidance Tackling Tech: Our Friend, the Internet, you’ll find a plan of action for internet connectivity in Teletherapy.
You know how it goes. You’re sitting at your computer talking with your internet friend, having a great conversation, and then BAM! Your best friend disappears, quickly becoming your foe. No amount of finagling with the wires of your friendship will get your internet friend to return. You’re stuck. But thank goodness for your second bestie, Cellular Data, who may have an “in.” But what if the data diva is a little too slow to respond? You might be left without a friend at all. And you still have a lot of conversation left to have. Or, worse case scenario, you need those friends to do your job!
HAVE A PLAN
We all know as SLPs that to have a conversation, you need two listening and speaking friends (or foes) and a mode of communication. Follow me here:
Party No.1: Me
Being a virtual SLP, I require some sort of internet access to successfully participate in the daily grind. Be it ethernet cable, wifi, or cellular data, if I’m not hooked up or hooked in, no work gets done and no moolah gets had.
Party No.2: The Internet
So when your livelihood depends on the internet, and your primary internet connection isn’t 100% reliable (it’s not, I promise), you need to have a plan in place for when it fails.
Mode of Communication: ???
For the conversation between parties to be successful, the mode of conversation needs to be as reliable as possible. As a general rule, if you’re hard-wired into an internet accessing device (i.e., a modem), you will have a better connection and reliability than if you’re relying on radio frequencies (WiFi) or your cell phone reception. This is why I choose to have the following plan of action when successful conversation with the internet is necessary on a daily basis:
PLAN A: Ethernet Cable
Even though WiFi is awesome and convenient, the bottom line is that an ethernet cable provides faster communication without interference from other signals. An ethernet cable is also able to accommodate multiple parties or devices without compromising the strength of the signal. I’ll admit that when I first started as a virtual SLP, I was skeptical of the supposed greatness of the ethernet cable and preferred the convenience and mobility of WiFi. However, once I made the switch to an ethernet cable, the quality of audio and video transmission during my virtual speech sessions was HUGE! Having conversations using an ethernet cable usually made and continues to make for a pleasant experience all around.
PLAN B: WiFi
WiFi becomes a great, convenient option for me when I’m unable to be at my home office for virtual speech sessions. It's also a welcome change on the random "I want to have my speech sessions outside on the porch or in my favorite comfy chair" occasions. It’s always “on” and can be accessed from just about anywhere. Most of the “out of the office” places I’ve ended up (i.e., library, quiet coffee shop, etc) have free WiFi options available. The downside of WiFi is in its variability in connection speed. It truly is slower when simultaneously downloading and uploading data, which means possible delays and reduced quality of audio and video transmissions during therapy sessions. Otherwise, WiFi has been a great addition to the world of the internet.
But let’s say the internet provided to the modem sending signals through your ethernet cable or WiFI is compromised. This could be something as simple as needing to reset your modem or as complicated as a widespread internet outage in your area. When either happens, I go straight to PLAN C.
PLAN C: Cellular Data
If you are a virtual SLP—or virtual anything for a living—and you don’t have access to unlimited, 3G or 4G cellular data as a back up… oh boy. I’ve been there, done that, and it is no fun. Practically, it means frantically resetting your modem. Throwing things in a bag and speeding to the nearest coffee shop to try to salvage your work day. Still nothing? Then it means typing up and sending emails out to all of your scheduled clients. Scouring your packed schedule for future dates and times to make up sessions for the affected clients. Sending out those potential times even though you don’t really know when you’ll have your internet friend back. Worrying that your internet friend won’t return by tomorrow and that you’ll have to reschedule all those clients as well. Throwing everything back in your bag and getting a cup of coffee to relax, because, HEY! You’re already at the local coffee shop anyway…
No, no, no, NEVER again. One of the additions for my virtual SLP work life this past school year was getting unlimited cellular data, and this second bestie has saved me more than once when the internet is refusing to talk to me through my ethernet cable! Yes, it’s slower. Yes, it adds cost to my cell phone bill. But, YES! I don’t have to do any superfluous sweet-talking to try to get the internet to return back to me.
PLAN D: Coffee
There have been times when nothing went according to PLAN A, B, or C. That conversation was just not meant to be. No mode of communication could solve the problem and your internet friend just needed some time alone apparently. When that happens, dispense yourself a cup of coffee and a grab good book. If you’re feeling pro-active, type up an email template to clients explaining the situation. And refill your cup of coffee. Add a little extra cream. DRINK UP!
-Angela Hancock, MSP, CCC-SLP
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