By: Valerie Heneghan, M.A., CCC-SLP/L, Director of Speech-Language, Feeding, and Assistive Technology
Tele-therapy for All!
Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley has been at the forefront of serving children and their families in a way that meets their current needs through clinical expertise, a team-based approach and integrating technology to ensure maximum independence. As an organization, we have been offering tele-therapy opportunities for the past 10 years as a service delivery model to those it would serve optimally (i.e., a generalization of skills to home environment, transportation issues, medically fragile or at-risk health, to accommodate busy schedules, etc.).
In response to COVID-19, all 87 therapists were trained to transition to tele-therapy services within two days with support from experienced tele-therapists within the agency.
How Does Tele-Therapy Work?
Once evaluated to determine eligibility for skilled therapy services, your therapist would follow up to plan your child’s tele-therapy session and schedule a time to meet. They will work with you to review treatment plans and establish your priorities.
Laptops or desktop computers are preferred for best overall experience. But tablets, iPhones and Android phones can work too as long as the device has a working microphone and camera. A stable internet connection is needed via a hard-line/Ethernet cord, WiFi or using your cellular plan (your standard data rates may apply). Screen sharing is available to increase participation, engagement and utilization of resources throughout the session.
Tips for Making the Most out of Online Therapy
- Get comfortable with the technology: Immerse yourself in the platform you are using. There are often a lot of features available such as audio adjustments and visual displays, screen sharing, chat features, etc. The more comfortable you are with these features the easier it may be to modify or troubleshoot if a technical problem occurs.
- Make a plan: Plan out a time and a designated space in your home that would work best for your child. Have the computer, phone or other device propped up on books or a stand that has a wide view of the room. If possible, the therapy time should be away from other family members or pets. Work with your therapist ahead of time to prepare a few materials or resources like balls, pillows, mats, or games.
- Ex: For a young child, find a space where the child can sit comfortably to view the screen but also has space nearby for movement breaks. Bring your child’s favorite toy to show to their therapist and board game to keep their engagement with the parent between exercises.
- Be flexible: When plan A doesn’t go accordingly, be willing to change course.
- Take the child’s lead and adapt as necessary. Let the therapist guide you in facilitating therapy strategies through real-life reactions and experiences.
- Use items in your home to replicate therapy equipment. Ex: Use couch cushions and pillows to create new surfaces for climbing and crashing.
- Make it fun: Be creative and try new things! You may be surprised by new interests and breaking from the same routines. See how much your child can do!
- Make it matter: Use this as an opportunity for your therapist to see your child in your home to incorporate therapy strategies and techniques in your daily routine. Let your therapist see what is important to your child and how to motivate them to achieve their treatment goals.
- Ex: A child is experiencing difficulty with mealtime; let the therapist observe seating and position at the table, mealtime structure, and how you communicate to your child during a typical mealtime. Pick a food that is important to your family and ask about strategies to incorporate it into your child’s diet.
- Give your therapist feedback: It may be more difficult to pick up on social cues, be direct about what went well and what could be improved. Share ideas and problem-solve together to plan for the next session.
As we try to be one step ahead of the COVID-19 crisis and care of your child, we are committed to keeping our programs running. Our tele-therapy services are available to maintain your child’s therapy schedule, help your family navigate this new routine and manage the difficult emotions that may come with it. We can also help parents that have a concern about their infant or toddler’s development now. There is no need to wait, as the early stages of a child’s life are the most important in their development.
We are pleased that tele-therapy has already helped many children eat a new food, stay active, and improve their regulation and play skills while building a stronger relationship with their caregiver.
We understand the immense stress of balancing your child’s needs with the demands of work and school while also keeping your family healthy. We are here to ensure that each child and their caregivers have the support they need to adopt this technology and continue therapy progress.
While much has changed, our commitment to you remains. If you have any needs, we are actively monitoring our main phone number, 630.620.4433 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact us at any time (please include your full name, child’s name, phone number and email) and a member of our team will return the response within one business day.