The use of teletherapy has increased tremendously since the start of the COVID-19 quarantine. Many families are seeking resources to enroll their children into teletherapy. Schools are also utilizing platforms such as Zoom and Google Meets to deliver special education services to students from within their homes. Teletherapy may seem daunting for some parents, as they may encounter internet/technical challenges, as well as behavioral challenges- children may become inattentive or non-compliant. Although teletherapy presents challenges, it also provides benefits that are not always accessible within the physical clinic. For instance, clinicians receive a personal glimpse into the homes of many clients and can address concerns that were once only subjective. Whether you are a parent who is thinking about teletherapy services or have already started, parents can use the following tips as a guide through teletherapy.
- Set a routine:
- Parents should set a routine for teletherapy. Make sure that the child is aware of the time and day in which the session will take place. Parents can use calendars, charts, and/or timers to provide warnings about transitioning to therapy. Children tend to be more compliant and willing to engage when they have enough time to transition between activities. In addition, parents should schedule online sessions with adequate time in between so the child can have a break or snack before going into the next session. Spacing or chunking sessions is particularly important for young children, as well as those that may be hyperactive or have challenges with attention. Therefore, parents should avoid having teletherapy sessions on the same day or directly after distance learning activities. A designated space and location within the home is also recommended. The space should be away from toys and distractions. The room should be quiet with good lighting. Lastly, the computer should be adjusted so that the child can make eye contact with the clinician. A full view will improve the child and clinician’s ability to see important facial and body cues.
- Have realistic expectations:
- Parents should have realistic expectations regarding teletherapy. There are bound to be interruptions or technical difficulties. We can try to prepare as much as possible, but life happens! In case of a technical emergency, have the clinicians phone number or email so that you can work through the problem together or reschedule. Parents should also consider their child’s needs when scheduling teletherapy. Does your child wake up later in the day? Or Is your child motivated in the mornings? If you know your child is typically oversleeps then avoid scheduling teletherapy sessions in the early morning. Don’t assume you’ll be able to get your child to wake-up early one day out of the week for therapy, be realistic. Teletherapy works best when children are alert, focused, and ready to participate. The clinician is likely to have various activities some which may include movement and interactive games. Teletherapy should be fun yet beneficial. Parents may witness the clinician using toys, social stories, video, cards, and/or computer games during a session. At first glance, these activities may seem like a waste of time or unnecessary, but a vital part of therapy is building rapport. Clinicians must establish a strong rapport with their clients in order to successfully address concerns, and what better way to bond than to play games!
- Be an active participant:
- Parents are busy and have a million and one things going on but teletherapy should not be used as a babysitting tool. Instead, be an active participant in your child’s therapy. If your child is responsible enough to engage in independent sessions, then “check-in” with the clinician in the beginning of the session for the first 1-5 minutes. Say “hello” or give brief updates. On the other hand, if you know your child tends to be distracted and inattentive then stay with your child throughout the session. Parents may also use a supportive person such as an older sibling or adult in the family to help. The supportive person doesn’t have to sit next to the child but rather be in proximity (e.g. same room) and serve as a reminder for the child to stay focused and on-task.
By: Dr. Teneisha McIntyre