TELEHEALTH/ ONLINE OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY
Parents who have opted for online therapy (also known as Telehealth or Teletherapy) are grateful after analysing the progress of their children who have utilized online platforms. As a Pediatric Occupational Therapist (OT), I am excited to update new possibilities in delivering services in this crucial situation. In telehealth or teletherapy, parents are linked as an active participant or co-therapist with the support of the OT - to implement therapy strategies at home.
Role of the occupational therapist: The OT, continues all the clinical responsibilities just as s/he would in an in-person session, including but limited to: assessment, setting goals, documentation, parent training , evaluating progress and revising goals. Telehealth does not remove any existing goals of an OT.
Role of the Parent: Parents play a key role as an onsite support person to follow therapy instructions and assemble materials required for the sessions. They are involved in physically guiding the child wherever necessary and work along with the occupational therapist as a co-therapist. Parents also follow a home program offered by the OT, just as they would during in-person sessions.
Tech Set-Up: A good internet connection, laptop/I-pad, a camera to track and analyse the response of the child, audio supports, phone by the side to communicate during any technical glitches are essential.
Parents unable to afford expensive gadgets may connect through WhatsApp calls for consultations.
Online Assessment and Documentation: Tele-health/ Teletherapy is an evidence based clinical practice that can be utilized for clinical in familiar environments including home, school and play area. It provides comfort during initial assessment especially for children with Nosocomephobia or a fear of hospitals as they may not cooperate in a clinical set-up the first few visits.
An online assessment procedure would involve the therapist observing the child during a live online session supported by video recordings from parents. Therapist will also collect information from caregivers through interviews, editable checklists, and caregiver questionnaires. All of this put together makes documentation more effective and transparent. A report is generated following the detailed evaluations and relevant goals are set aiming for progress.
Environment: The child’s work station or workspace at home must be free of clutter without distractions to facilitate optimal learning. Children with visual hypersensitivity may get distracted easily; hence, setting comfortable illumination and movement breaks are essential. A calm workspace can further improve attention and focus of the child.
Intervention: Share screen option and whiteboard, can be used for sharing videos, texting, drawing and colouring for the student. The therapist will also use physical demonstration of activities to help children and parents learn strategies virtually.
Challenges and Possibilities: Approaches like Neurodevelopmental Therapy/ Bobath and roods approaches can be difficult to carry out through online session; however, the therapist can use approaches such as MOHO, Components of PNF, and Sensory Integration Therapy to achieve the targeted skills.
As for children with difficulties in sitting and focussing the therapist may recommend activities before the online session which can help the child stay calm and be more receptive during an online session.
Conclusion: We are happy to see children with the diagnosis of ASD, ADHD, Learning disabilities, Down Syndrome, Developmental Delays, and Cerebral Palsy are benefiting from Online Occupational therapy and progressing in their developmental skills.
If you have a question or more email us or give us a call and we’d be happy to answer it for you.
Shyama KM, Occupational Therapist
Chitra Thadathil, Speech Language Pathologist