Cindy Hollmann, M.S., CCC-SLP, currently lives in Bellefontaine Neighbors, Missouri. Cindy started her studies at the University of Missouri, Columbia (Mizzou), and later transferred to Southern Illinois University where she finished her B.S. and M.S. degrees in 1995 and 1997. Cindy worked as an SLP in “brick & mortar” schools for 15 years initially and has now been a provider with PresenceLearning for seven years.
What inspired you to become an SLP?
I began my college studies in journalism and ended up in 2 classes—a sign language class and a linguistics class—that overlapped with speech pathology majors and realized that was more my calling.
What made you want to become a teletherapist with PL?
When I first started reading about teletherapy in the ASHA journals, I thought it was too good to be true. Once I began to research teletherapy, the whole concept started to come into focus for me and I knew I wanted to interview with PresenceLearning. I was influenced toward PL because the Board Of Directors at the time were people I had heard of and were respected in the world of speech and language.
Could you walk us through your daily routine? A “day in the life of a PL therapist” if you will?
I live in the Central Time zone and work mostly with clients in the Pacific Time zone. This allows me to plan each day’s sessions first thing every morning and begin my sessions by 9:00 am Pacific. I continue throughout the day until about 2:00 pm Pacific, which is when our paraprofessional’s work day ends. I document the sessions at the end of each day. I’ve been doing this enough years to have learned my own limits. I prefer about 5 direct therapy sessions each day, allowing additional time during the week for parent contacts, evaluations, meetings, and reaching out to the classroom teachers. I’ve also learned that 8 direct groups in a day is too many for me to personally feel like I’m still giving the students my best.
Can you tell us about your caseload?
I currently have students from preschool through 8th grade. In the past years with PL, I have also had some students in high school.
What do you enjoy about being a provider with PL?
I enjoy that I feel at the top of my game professionally. It’s sort of the dream. It fulfills the “why” we went to college. I get to actually do speech therapy all day every day… imagine that! I have just the right and proper amount of paperwork. I don’t lose precious therapy time doing bus duties or learning about initiatives that aren’t pertinent to my overall mission as an SLP. With these individual or small group teletherapy sessions, the students are thriving and making progress at a rate that I never saw before. Because I’m being treated with respect and honored as a professional, I feel the freedom to push my students forward without any micromanagement getting in our way.
What were you most surprised about when you made the transition to be a teletherapist?
One of the real blessings I didn’t see coming with teletherapy is the way that the technology serves to reduce student anxiety and dissolve barriers that sometimes pre-exist. I’ve seen some students with “chips on their shoulders” who just let the hostilities go. I see reduced anxiety too with the kids who may be included along the autism spectrum. And with the kids who are doing work on speech fluency (stuttering), it is the same thing—their anxiety drops down a notch or two which helps us achieve a higher level of therapeutic honesty. I think the common theme is an element of safety and predictability. The teletherapy experience is less intimidating for them.
What do you find most challenging about being a teletherapist?
I’m nowhere near as stressed out as I was in my previous setting and my improved health is a remarkable testament to exactly what stress can do to a person. I’m working about 2/3 as many hours as I once did, but that’s by choice. That being said, more hours are always being offered to me. If I wanted to work more hours and make more money, I could. I think it’s about finding the balance of priorities.
The biggest challenge I have encountered in my current school district is being assigned with preschoolers. I want to spend more time consulting with their parents. at is a big part of what you should do when you are working with preschool children. The barrier there, is that I am a monolingual English speaker, l whereas many of my current parents are monolingual Spanish speakers.
Could you share some specifics about the PL product that have helped you in your practice?
Our support system, from the leads to technical support, has been rock solid. I appreciate the way I can contact someone and they’re immediately right there. It doesn’t even take a full minute to have someone from the tech support team say to me, “Ok try this.” And voila we get right back into therapy. And if the first thing they suggest doesn’t happen to work, they’ll ask “Can I log into your room?” They are there. That’s just one way PL stands out.
I am a big proponent of PL. When I went to an ASHA conference, SLPs contracting with other organizations or going it on their own would brainstorm and converse, saying “maybe someday our platform will be able to do this or that. What does your platform do?” And I didn’t want to brag, but I had to politely say “um, well the platform I use already does all of that.”
No one can do what we do. It’s obvious. I have seen that our data collection process is better and more efficient than other systems and I have seen our technology is better—to have the entire whiteboard options, and to be able to play the video clips and the GIFs. It’s all very useful. And there’s still platform tools I don’t even use often enough.
I tend to create a lot of my own content by choice. I love to create things. I’ll have something ancient that I want to recreate with a more up-to-date look. SLPs love to keep those oldie-but-a-goodie materials! I enjoy updating them with PowerPoint, saving them as PDFs, and loading them to my classroom.
I have a fantastic team within my district. We sub for each other, we know each other’s lives. Our paraprofessional must be the best in the business. She goes above and beyond. She honestly never drops the ball. The administration completely trusts us and that’s been a welcome feeling that I wasn’t accustomed to having. It makes me feel valued when they come to me and ask me for input. We’re very supported by our school district.
Advice for therapists considering a transition to teletherapy?
Don’t be afraid! Before my own transition to teletherapy, it seemed too good to be true. To this day I am still pinching myself. It really can happen.I was first exposed to the idea of teletherapy through the ASHA journals. After looking into the different companies, I knew that PresenceLearning was who I wanted to pursue and interview with.
On Facebook there are many conversation groups about teletherapy, and most of the comments that appear seem to be from people who are exploring the “jump”… They always say, “I’m thinking about it, I’m thinking about it.” I get on there and try to encourage them. It really can happen. Get yourself an accountant—then you don’t have to worry about that. The cost of hiring an accountant to do your taxes is surprisingly reasonable…People are afraid of that. It shouldn’t be a stumbling block.
In summary, that’s what I would say—not to be afraid, it IS real.
Do you have anything else you’d like to share?
What makes me really happy in my work life now is seeing the progress. That was my frustration before—the kids weren’t making enough progress. I was working with groups of 8 and 9 at once. And now, the group size is good, this is what I am here to do, and the kids feel special. They all want to go to speech. I don’t know if it’s the technology or if it’s the small groups or a combination. I don’t know what the magic is exactly, but it is magic. There’s a phenomenal difference in how quickly the students progress that has made all the difference for me. I feel satisfied now. I feel like I am doing what I went to school to do.
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