Last year, when telehealth became the new norm for many medical visits, speech language pathologist (SLP) Tayler Kina moved to the Flathead Valley, where she practiced speech therapy remotely, leaving the headquartered office of IICA Speech in San Jose.
As clients gradually returned to medical offices locally and nationwide, IICA Speech’s owner and founder Amy Haught opened a second branch in Kalispell this year, keeping Kina as the manager and lead SLP.
“The owner wanted us to serve our local community and it was really a fortunate blessing,” Kina said. “It was during COVID and we were seeing all of our clients on Zoom and insurance was covering telehealth.”
In August, IICA Speech opened in Kalispell, offering telehealth and in-person speech therapy, primarily working with children on the autism spectrum. Other services include language delay, fluency and feeding therapy, while also providing care for adults with cognitive issues after suffering head injuries or strokes.
Now that insurance covers telehealth, Kina plans to continue offering it and says it’s especially useful for clients who live in rural areas with limited access to medical services. She said it’s been surprisingly beneficial for some of her clients who respond better to virtual visits.
“At the beginning, we were nervous about how it was going to go,” Kina said. “It was very new for SLP, but we got training on how to do it in an effective way.”
Since Kina works mostly with children, she incorporates interactive online games into her therapy and says it’s helpful for some of her clients to be in their own environment using their own toys.
“We like to involve the parents and coach them how to communicate in that moment,” she said. “When they come into the clinic, the parent isn’t always there.”
IICA Speech also works with kids who have feeding issues, including clients who aren’t developing feeding muscles and some who have anxiety about certain foods like fruits and vegetables. Kina uses a program to integrate sensory, motor, oral and behavioral methods while coaching parents.
“We focus on playing and having fun with mealtime and empowering kids and families,” Kina said. “It can be a fun, social, family-oriented time, and we see a lot of success.”
In the Kalispell facility, there are three different specialized treatment rooms with space for three SLPs and possibly an occupational therapist.
Kina is the only SLP in the clinic right now, but she’s looking to hire more therapists as it gains more clients and continues to grow. She says it’s helpful having a graduate program at the University of Montana to recruit therapists, but it’s challenging to only have one school nearby.
While there are other SLP private practices in the valley, Kina wants IICA to add more opportunities for clients and fill a void in the area while offering more options for clients in rural communities.
“We’re really working on letting people know that we are here and we want to accommodate people’s needs, especially if they live far away,” Kina said.
IICA Speech is located at 151 Business Center Loop, Suite A, Unit 1 in Kalispell. For more information, visit www.iicaspeech.com.
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