What is Teletherapy?
Teletherapy – commonly known as “telehealth” in the healthcare arena – is the online delivery Occupational Therapy services at REACH. This is done via live, face-to-face video conferencing. During therapy sessions, the child and the therapist can see, hear, and interact with one another in real time, using webcams, headsets, and a live, synchronous online learning environment. If you’ve ever used Skype on your computer or FaceTime on your iPhone, you’ve used a similar type of technology.
How do we go about technical challenges? Will it compromise the therapy process?
It is commonly understood that there are technical problems that can arise due to the online venue that are nonexistent when the therapy session is in person. For example, it can be difficult for the child to connect and communicate with a therapist who is not in the same room together interacting face-to-face.
These potential technical pitfalls can be avoided through:
- A computer with a high-resolution web-cam or an external web-cam,
- Sound input and output (this could be a built-in microphone and speakers or an external microphone and headphones).
While this may seem to be difficult at first, this will ensure that your teletherapy session will not feel all that different from an in-person, face-to-face encounter.
- Also, we typically work with the parents and do a trial with them so we all get the hang of using these online platforms before they begin their first session.
- We will also guide you about creating a type of environment that is most conducive to success in teletherapy. Children should be set up at a desktop computer with a properly working webcam and in-computer microphone along with noise-cancelling headphones. An appropriate height desk and chair will allow a child to sit up straight with their hips, knees, and feet at a 90° angle.
Will online sessions decrease my child’s engagement compared to hands-on personal sessions like we always do?
Parents may be concerned that during online sessions it will be difficult to maintain the child’s focus and engagement. However, various ways in which we can ensure better participation and engagement is by:
- Preparing the child with a visual schedule
- Decluttering distractions around where you and your child are sitting for the video conference
- The therapist will plan the session to create a mix of movement based and table-top tasks to ensure better sensory regulation, incorporating really cool online games (which actually your child may find novel, more interesting and a welcome difference from his regular sessions)
- Giving lots of positive feedback verbally and visually through the use of emoticons.
- Also, online therapy offers a plethora of games, exercises, and more to engage the child.
What areas would you work upon in teletherapy sessions? Can we continue the goals that we were working on already at the center?
Since the core aspects of therapy remain the same when sessions are completed virtually , some of the areas that we can continue to work upon through teletherapy are:
- Fine motor skills (such as using buttons, manipulating scissors, or holding a pencil)
- Writing, reading, or learning
- Gross motor skills (such as using muscles in the neck, arms, hands, and torso)
- Assisting with self-care, such as dressing, eating, and grooming
- Managing their emotions or behaviors
- Playing or engaging in leisure activities
- Organizing, planning, and completing tasks
- Interacting or communicating with other children, adults, teachers, etc.
The sessions will be conducted by the therapist who is known and experienced with Teletherapy. The activities would be conducted in ways where the therapist will model the activity to the child, do it with the child, guide, help and empower you to actively be a part of scaffolding your child in person and hands on and you conduct it with them at home while the conferencing is on.
Will online sessions compromise our privacy and confidentiality?
We take the utmost care in utilizing virtual platforms which will completely ensure that equipment and connections are secure and taking steps to make certain that unauthorized third parties do not accidentally enter the room during a videoconferencing session. We will send a prior consent-to-treat process and content. Of course, at any point you can ask questions to ensure ongoing affirmative consent
So, to sum it up…Just like everything else teletherapy also has its pros and cons.
The pros being: Improves access during time when we otherwise wouldn’t be able to do our OT sessions, Convenient: saves travel time and other logistics, Child friendly: computer-based activities are motivating for children, effective and convenient. Research has shown that the quality of teletherapy is on par with onsite therapy, simple, easy-to-implement technology is user-friendly for students and schools, while also being cost-effective and flexible.
The cons being: Lacking the in-person connect of OT, limitations in the use of certain kinds of diagnostic conditions, not everyone may have access to high quality internet and other technology needed for this.