‘Teletherapy’ what is it and how can this help my child achieve their goals?

Apr 20, 2020 | Therapy

‘Life has changed for us all due to COVID-19, the introduction of social distancing rules has led us to rapidly adapt the ways in we are providing therapy and supporting our children and families. Teletherapy or telehealth has been used for many years to support those in rural and remote locations. This blog is for families who are not familiar with teletherapy and will outline the key benefits for your child. So, what is ‘teletherapy’? Teletherapy or Telehealth is a term that refers to the delivery of health care services and support via any telecommunication technology.  These services can consist of videoconferencing, phone calls, emails and text or other direct messages. This can be used for direct therapy, parent education, teacher education and support, monitoring of home programs, virtual meetings and prescription, and problem solving. There are some obvious differences between in clinic appointments and teletherapy– your child’s therapist is not physically in the room with you, and you will be at home instead of at the clinic.  However, much of the rest of the session is essentially the same:

  • Your child’s therapist will ask questions about how your child is going and any progress or issues you would like to discuss
  • Your child’s therapist will assess how your child is going, by watching your child and seeing how they perform the activities they are working on. If your therapist needs to see a specific task, they will give you specific instructions on how to do it so you can do it with your child and your therapist can watch
  • Your child’s therapist will still use their clinical reasoning skills to problem solve your child’s speech, movement patterns, thinking strategies, or functional skills, and provide you and your child with recommendations on how to improve their skills
  • Your child’s therapist will still give constant feedback on your child’s performance so they can adapt and improve with practice
  • Your child’s therapist will still engage your child in the therapy activities, providing encouragement, motivation, and positive reinforcement for when they are doing things well (or feedback for when they can improve)
  • Your child’s therapist will still give you and your child recommendations on things they can continue with at home, to continue to carry over the gains made in the session in their everyday life
  • Your child’s therapist will still follow up with other people involved in your child’s care such as other therapists, teachers and early educators to ensure everyone on your child’s team is working together.

As you can see, besides the physical presence of the therapist and the location of the appointment, not much else in your child’s session will be that different. What are the benefits of teletherapy? Teletherapy provides some additional benefits over in clinic appointments.  Read our list of benefits below: Teletherapy allows for social distancing:

  • You can continue therapy in situations where you need to stay away from other people to prevent the spread of illness.
  • your child can continue working towards their goals and improving their abilities under the guidance of their usual therapist.

No travel is required:

      • No need to make sure you have snacks packed for the kids, no loading the kids into the car, and no tricky transitions when you arrive (or leave!) the clinic.
      • No travel costs (which would apply if your child’s therapist would visit your school/ childcare or home)

The activities are done with your child’s things in your child’s environment (instead of using our things in our environment):

    • Practicing activities with your child’s things in your own environment means you are more likely to be able to replicate the activity so that your child can practice it again later – which will lead to more opportunities for them to improve.
    • While teletherapy sessions are most often conducted at home with a parent and child, teletherapy sessions can occur at other locations such as school/ childcare (with their permission) or other family members homes.

You will learn a lot from your therapist:

    • In face to face sessions, when your child is working directly with the therapist, the therapist is the one ‘doing’ the therapy. They are thinking and analysing in their head and adapting the activity in response to what they can see, and they are verbally directing your child.
    • In a teletherapy session, your therapist instead becomes your coach – they will watch what is happening, problem solve together with you, and provide you direct feedback about how to support or facilitate or help your child.  The therapist, in effect, helps you to get better at helping your own child.

It can be empowering for you as a parent:

    • The transfer of knowledge from your child’s therapist to you during a teletherapy session can be very empowering. You can then share that knowledge with other people in your child’s life, and advocate for your child confidently.

If delivered well, the outcomes of telehealth sessions can be just as good, or sometimes better, than in-clinic sessions:

    • The reasons for this are due to the benefits outlined above – the session and activity is being practice in your own environment, with your own equipment and toys, and the therapist is coaching you and your child to improve your child’s performance. Put all of that together, and the likelihood of you being able to replicate the activity later, and build the activity or strategies into your child’s everyday life are much higher than if you have a therapist doing the therapy in a clinic setting.  The carry over potential of the therapy session is greater.

Siblings can be more easily entertained:

    • Centre based visits can often be challenging with siblings. Teletherapy appointments at home, mean siblings can play with their own toys, can go outside, or watch another TV program.

Interacting over a screen might really motivate your child:

    • Some children are captivated by screens and find it more difficult to interact with adult’s face to face. Sometimes video teletherapy sessions might be really motivating for your child.

The current Covid-19 pandemic has come quickly, it is likely that we will be practising social distancing for many months to come.  We don’t want your child to be miss out on therapy while we wait for this to pass. With teletherapy, you can be assured that your child’s therapy and developmental progress can continue, even in these most challenging of times. If you are interested in switching over to teletherapy services, please speak to your child’s therapist or contact admin@bridgesforlearning.org.au ————————————————————————————————————————————– Adapted from Emily Hayles –author of ‘Braver than you think: How to help your child with a disability live their best life’