Your parenting plate has been flipped upside-down since the onset of COVID-19.
You are constantly role changing between teacher, chef, referee, etc.,
and now your child’s speech language pathologist is offering you
teletherapy. Perhaps the thought of adding virtual therapy is a bit overwhelming.
Before you start to worry about “the how” and “the when,”
let’s talk about what’s involved and whether it makes sense
for your child and your family’s current situation.
What is teletherapy?
Teletherapy is an online therapy visit. An appointment date and time is
scheduled and your child continues the same therapy/plan of care as if
they were in the office. Teletherapy evaluations are also possible for
new patients. You will need a computer or smart device with a camera,
microphone, and access to the Internet.
Is teletherapy right for my child?
Teletherapy does not fit every child, and honestly, it does not fit every
therapist. Your therapist will know if your child is a potential candidate.
There are also certain treatments that are not able to be completed without
a hands-on approach.
Why should I consider teletherapy?
Consistency is key with all therapies, including speech-language and feeding.
Attending sessions regularly, being punctual and prepared, and following
through with recommendations at home will benefit your child’s treatment
tremendously. Will missing a few appointments over a long period of time
negatively impact progress? Probably not. But missing several weeks or
even months of therapy can increase the gap between your child’s
age and skill development, potentially increasing the overall length of
treatment. Virtual therapy sessions are a great way to help keep your
child’s progress on track.
Is it “just too much” during this time?
You are the only one who can answer this. Family wellness and mental health
must come first, but teletherapy can even be helpful during these times. Our
little ones thrive on routines and consistency, and their routines have
been completely flipped! They likely don’t understand why things
have changed, and may be feeding off your own uncertainties and emotions.
Allowing your child to look forward to seeing their weekly therapist can
provide a familiar sense of routine.
How will it work? Is it hard to set up?
At Baton Rouge General Pediatric Rehab Center, we use Microsoft Teams to
conduct private teletherapy services. The first step, downloading the
app, is free and easy. Your therapist will send you an email invitation
upon request with instructions on how to get started. A link is included
at the bottom of the email where you can join your teletherapy session.
Microsoft Teams works on smartphones, tablets, and laptops. You can even
use a desktop computer using its microphone and camera.
What will it look like?
In teletherapy, your child’s same goals and objectives are addressed,
but the methods may be different. With those under three years old, a
Family Centered Approach is used, frequently relying on parent training
and coaching. In older clients, a fairly typical treatment approach is
used, while relying on the caregiver to “be our hands” if
needed. On a conference call, we have the ability to screen share so we
can review a webpage or document together. There are also many websites
that offer electronic or no-print materials perfect for speech and language therapy.
Will my child even participate?
This is where our skills as therapists come in! We are trained in quickly
establishing and maintaining rapport with children. In teletherapy, we
have ways to encourage and motivate your little one to communicate. Some
of the same methods we use in face-to-face therapy can be applied here
like using trinkets and toys, favorite songs and videos, and animated
facial expressions to help keep their attention. Overall, most children
who are appropriate for teletherapy participate without any trouble. As
a caregiver, it is important to remember that you have to do what’s
best for your child!
Megan Dewberry, MA, CCC-SLP
Pediactric Rehabilitation Therapist
Baton Rouge General Pediactric Rehab Center