STTOTS stands for Speech Therapy Totos Online Training School (STTOTS). STTOTS is a platform I created, which houses a growing collection of training courses covering some of the speech therapy topics mostly related to paediatric speech therapy practice.
Ever since I began my practice in Kenya, I have wanted to pass on my knowledge to those keen for it while at the same time devising sustainable ways of working in a country, which had such few speech therapists.
This led me to start working with speech therapist assistants. I started training speech therapy assistants, who I then entrusted the therapy provision to, under my supervision. These training sessions continued as my Clinic grew and as I experienced staff turn-over. As years went by and the Clinic continued to grow and my family expanded and my time diminished…I realised I needed to figure out a way to manufacture more time (he..he).
Well, I needed to figure out a way to teach my staff without always exchanging my time for it as it wasn’t just me that seemed to be short of time. My staff too were getting busier and synchronising everybody’s schedules so that we could meet periodically for training, became increasingly challenging.
I was determined to find a solution that ensured I could continue training my staff regularly, that I could better standardise the training sessions, avail the training sessions to my staff on-demand, and incorporate a way to test how the content was being understood.
That sounds easy enough, right?
Nearly a year and a half since I embarked on this journey, our site has undergone several work marathon sessions, tech challenges and more iterations than I dare to admit…
But, my collection of speech therapy training material is finally available to anyone interested in learning about speech therapy, and wishing to engage in quality speech therapy practices.
I have always enjoyed teaching. Teaching my clients, teaching my children (hence why I am a home-school mother) and teaching my staff…
You could say that teaching is in my blood or that my nature to problem-solve always brings me to ‘teaching’ as teaching empowers and it helps one solve problems quicker.
Or is it that I remember having some pretty awful teachers that I made it my mission in life to figure out a way of simplifying concepts for the sake of that student, who like me didn’t always grasp how some of the non-creative teachers I had, taught concepts that were not easy to understand.
Whatever the reason, I just love teaching.
I teach conscientious therapists and teachers all about speech therapy so that they can optimize communication and learning outcomes of their students/children.
Teaching is actually the gift that keeps giving (I’m pretty sure I’m stealing this phrase; I’m also pretty sure the original wasn’t about teaching). When you teach, it is not just the student who benefits, but the teacher also gets to improve their knowledge, and you get to impact not just that student’s life, but many more that that student will touch.
There is an organisation, ‘Teachable‘ that leases online teaching platforms to course creators; whose tagline is,
“teach everything you know”
This has been one of my mantras. I fully believe we all have our unique gifts that if we taught others, it would be to everyone’s benefit. And contrary to what some people think, sharing your knowledge with others doesn’t take away from you, instead, it enriches you in many amazing ways.
When I started to train my own speech therapist assistants, I was warned by many that that would lead to a high staff turnover in my organisation. And yes, that did happen, but I never once wanted to go back on that decision.
What actually annoyed me was that each time a staff left, I had to re-train the same content. And when the Clinic got busier, it became a huge inconvenience dealing with staff who left without notice as I never had a stream of trained therapists waiting to take over from those who left.
Again, I cannot emphasise enough how so incredibly excited I am to be sharing my passion with those of you keen to join this profession.
Those of you who know without a doubt that they have been called to work with persons’ with communication difficulties, and who long to know how to better serve their children/students.
I dedicate STTOTS to you…
The professional with a hunger to learn…
The person (parent, teacher) with a passion for serving this community for whom communication doesn’t come as easily…
…and I toast to your success! 🥂
STTOTS- Born Out of a Need to Solve a Problem
The truth is, when I first decided to record my training lectures, the idea behind the thought was that I would be able to create more time. If I didn’t need to slot time in my day to give these lectures, that time could be spent working on other things.
I also imagined that having the lectures recorded would help standardise things and also prevent me from always having to reinvent the wheel.
There were just so many possibilities from having the lectures recorded;
- My staff could be engaged in ongoing training and refreshers even when I didn’t have the time (or their schedules didn’t allow). They could literally pause, rewind or listen to the lectures as many times as they wanted to…
- It would improve their knowledge base and therapy skills
- And so on
Yes, originally, STTOTS wasn’t even going to be a ‘school’, it was just going to offer my organisation more convenience when it came to staff training and improving the quality of the services we offered. It was also going to free up my time.
But, the recorded videos grew bigger and my imagination ran loose until it became a school, Speech Therapy Totos Online Training School…
- I could make this training available to anyone who wanted to improve their therapy skills especially those living in under-served regions?
- I could reduce on the service gaps we experienced as an organisation when a staff left? And mostly, without any notice 😒
- I could create a high standard and have people who I have trained receive an acknowledgement/ certificate, which I could stand by because I ensured that all the training was standardised and how each individual performed would reflect their skill level (and not what the training focused on or didn’t focus on). In the past, I have always struggled to give personal references following my training episodes because I wasn’t assessing and neither did I have a well laid out curriculum that I stuck rigidly to. To me, a certificate of merit says a lot more than just a certificate of attendance.
STTOTS has been through several iterations and I am pleased to release to the world an online training platform that would help address speech therapy skill shortage in under-served regions.
The online platform currently houses my biggest collection of training modules covering ‘Language Therapy‘ and a short course on ‘Cleft Palate Speech Therapy’. The platform will grow to accommodate more training courses over the years and I’m sure it will undergo many more improvements.
The plan for now is to have the following short courses in the next 3-4 months:
- Articulation Therapy
- Stuttering/Stammering Therapy
- Literacy Therapy (how to resolve issues with learning how to read, spell and write)
- Clinical Practice
And, training modules on specific communication disorders such as:
- Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Down Syndrome
- Hearing Impairment
- Cerebral Palsy
- Auditory Processing Disorders
- Childhood Apraxia of Speech
- Reading Disorders (Dyslexia)
- Cerebral Vascular Accidents (Strokes)
For now, there are a total of 5 courses ready for your consumption;
Solving our internal staffing and training issues made me create STTOTS, initially to serve us in our endeavour to serve you better, but then I thought I should share our training program with anyone wishing to improve their speech therapy skills.
If you decide to access these courses, please bear in mind that you’re entering into our back room, you get to hear the things I say to my staff and witness many imperfect moments and you’ll get to contribute to the improvements that will come in the future.
Who Would Benefit from STTOTS
The following people would benefit from enrolling for STTOTS courses;
- Speech therapists
- Speech therapist assistants
- Teachers (Early childhood and Primary)
- Learning support teachers
- Special Needs teachers
- Shadow teachers/Teacher assistants
Parents who have developed a passion for the work that speech therapists do. Some of these parents, most of whom happen to have children who have had various communication difficulties, have reached out to me wanting to learn the skills to be able to work with their own children or be able to help other parents.
These parents understand how important communication is and from their own pain, they have developed a passion; a commitment towards helping children who struggle with talking.
This was my why for choosing a career in speech therapy. My youngest sister was suddenly diagnosed with a hearing impairment at the age of 2 and I very quickly went from never having before heard about speech therapy, to wanting so badly to one day become on.
The other obvious beneficiaries of STTOTS would have to be speech therapist assistants, as well as speech therapists.
I have always said that no 2 speech therapists are built the same.
The same way no 2 GPs are the same. The title does not dictate the quality of practice you will receive from a speech therapist. Parents can be forgiven for thinking that the experience you would get from taking your child to speech therapist A would be exactly the same as if you took them to speech therapist B.
The quality of a speech therapist is dependent on the quality of the training they received, their experience level, people-skills and critical thinking skills, and their level of creativity.
STTOTS can help take care of some of these factors, but not all of them. It is possible to have 2 therapists who have had comparable training and even experience levels, but still have them differ in the quality of therapy they offer.
One for instance may be genuinely a peoples’ person, who loves children while the other may not have as much patience dealing with children or people in general.
As you may deduce, the person who genuinely loves children may make for a better paediatric therapist than the one not as keen on people interaction.
In my experience, speech therapists who thrive at their jobs;
✔️ Are patient and supportive
✔️ Are able to put people at ease
✔️ Have good listening and communication skills
✔️ Are able to work with people of all ages, cultural backgrounds and lifestyles
✔️ Enjoy solving problems (analytical skills)
✔️ Have the capacity to study
✔️ Have leadership qualities and good negotiating skills
✔️ Are persons able to work as part of a team
STTOTS can offer the training, but it is up to parents or organisations sponsoring candidates to do their due diligence so that the combination of factors produces an intuitive and effective therapist.
Teachers of all kinds, but particularly Early Years’ Teachers, Learning Support Teachers and Special Needs Teachers can directly benefit from enrolling into STTOTS.
Teachers spend a significant amount of time with children, many of whom may not be excelling because of underlying speech, language or learning delays.
What may be unknown to most parents is that teachers don’t receive specialist training on how to deal with students who are experiencing learning difficulties.
Most learning support programs fail to expeditiously improve student outcomes.
In fact, teachers don’t always identify students displaying mild to moderate delays in a timely manner.
Having teachers receive training that can enable them to identify and even support students with various communication difficulties is something that schools can do to ensure no student is left behind. Teachers too can take it upon themselves to up-skill in this area in order to better serve their students.
At the very minimum though, accessing the courses contained in STTOTS should be something Learning Support teachers should explore as their roles place them in daily contact with students with various learning delays, most of which are related to the students’ communication skills.
Finally, Shadow teachers would highly benefit from STTOTS courses. Children experiencing communication and learning difficulties may have a full-time shadow teacher who accompanies the child to school, to their therapy sessions and maybe even spends some time with the child at home.
Having a shadow teacher, especially for the child with moderate to severe communication needs is a great way of ensuring your child makes timely progress. I have always recommended that parents explore the possibility of having a shadow teacher for their child if their child has severe delays.
The problem I find though is that most shadow teachers lack the relevant skills to help mitigate the child’s issues, and if not adequately trained, shadow teachers can end up becoming the child’s clutch… the child can become very dependent on their shadow teachers for even the skills they are capable of.
If you employ a shadow teacher; perhaps you have a carer, who you feel works really well with your child or you are looking to employ one, STTOTS can be an option of equipping the shadow teacher with the requisite skills for them to be able to optimally support your child and assist them in meeting their goals.
And with STTOTS certification process, you will know how capable the person you have selected to work with your child really is.
Other demographics can also indirectly benefit from STTOTS…
STTOTS as a Hub for Trained Professionals
I am always asked by parents and organisations to recommend shadow teachers or therapists, and most times, I am never in a position to.
With STTOTS, anyone completing the courses in order to make themselves marketable for a position, can have the advantage of being matched with an employer.
Similarly, I may be able to recommend trained persons to any parent or organisation that wishes to hire a trained speech therapist assistant.
Being in a country with no way of ascertaining a therapist’s credibility, STTOTS will be instrumental in the creation of some kind of standardised barometer for understanding the kind of training your child’s therapist/shadow teacher has undergone.
For an underserved country as Kenya, STTOTS is 1 step in the right direction towards improving the quality of therapy services and outcomes for children with communication delays.
How the training school works
Anyone wishing to expand their knowledge on speech therapy and learn techniques used by speech therapists can now do so from the courses contained on the online platform.
As mentioned in the previous email, there are 5 courses (for now), which are complete or almost complete that anyone who enrols can get started on. The 5 courses relate to the topics; Language Therapy and Cleft Speech Therapy; the latter, which is FREE courtesy of my collaboration with the amazing people at Smile Train 🤗.
Access to STTOTS is via monthly/ annual subscription.
Anyone can access the training materials on STTOTS for as little as $39 per month, which is deductible after every month,or for $175 per year!
Each of the courses contains a series of video lectures, a growing database of demo videos, handouts and quizzes. Upon completion of each of the courses, there is an optional (but highly recommended) exam, which students can opt to take.
This examination will evaluate the student’s synthesis of information; ability to apply what they have learnt in real-life scenarios, which one is likely to encounter as a therapist. There is a pass mark that must be achieved in order to receive a ‘certificate of merit’.
In case a student fails the examination, they will be allowed a second opportunity to re-sit, but should they fail this second re-sit, a certificate for that particular course cannot be awarded. They will however, still be able to continue with the rest of the courses.
Taking the examination costs an additional $40 for each take, as this requires that I put in time to actually mark the student’s work.
Aside from the obvious benefit of gauging one’s own learning, sitting the exams will enable the student;
– To earn a certificate
– To make themselves attractive to a future employer
– To make themselves eligible to applying for an internship opportunity at our Clinic
– And, for those completing the FREE Cleft Speech Therapy Course, sitting, and passing the examination improves the student’s chances of being considered for partnership with Smile Train, and therefore securing funding to be able to offer therapy to children with repaired cleft palate.
I hope that anyone who enrols into STTOTS will be able to take advantage of the Discussion Forum contained on the platform, to exchange ideas with fellow colleagues, ask about cases they may be having, and overall benefit from peer-to-peer discussions.
I will also be participating in the discussion forums, and answering whatever questions that will be posed.
My ultimate vision for STTOTS is that it will add to the knowledge and skills of those who will enrol, and it will enrich all of our experiences and truly contribute to all of our ongoing professional development.
One last reminder… STTOTS is my in-house training program, which I am making available to you.
I am no college…that said, I have also never been one to sit around looking at a problem waiting for others to solve it. I get in with the capacity I have in that moment, and solve it in the way that I can!
And this is how I am showing up;
– To solve the issue of a shortage of speech therapists in the country and the continent
– To empower professionals in the field on evidence based practices
– To share my expertise and experience I have accrued over my 15+ years of working as a speech therapist
– To contribute to knowledge creation and extension in this field
It starts with me, and I have taken up the challenge!
The future of STTOTS will be up to all of us.
I am optimistic!
Those brave enough to join me on this adventure, enrol and let’s go places together!
Let’s improve communication and learning outcomes of those who cross our paths!
Let’s not wait for our governments…
Let’s not wait for when we have more money…
Let’s not wait for when things are perfect…
Let’s take action today!