Across the board in my area, early intervention has been cancelled. If you are a special needs momma like me, you probably immediately worried about your kiddo’s development.
Luckily, I am off work and can prioritize working with Nicholas. However, that is not the case for everyone, especially if you are also trying to homeschool older kids. There are so many unknowns here, and you are probably asking yourself a lot of these questions:
How is my child going to continue their progress?
How can teletherapy compare to the real thing?
How am I supposed to do what a trained therapist does?
Teletherapy, of course, doesn’t compare to the in-person service that your child is used to. You are also not expected to become a professional therapy provider overnight. However, it is possible to make progress using the tools that you do have, and access to teletherapy is a big one!
For that reason, I wanted to make a quick guide for parents to make the most out of their 30 minute sessions so that you can balance life and continue your child’s progress during this COVID-19 nonsense. It would be a shame to lose the progress you have made thus far just because your therapists can’t be there in person!
Tip #1: Communicate with your therapists!
If you aren’t already, now is a good time to get on a texting basis with your child’s providers. Ask them what you can expect from the session so that you can be mentally prepared. We also use this to send pictures of our kiddo succeeding OR things that we are worried about (such as slouching).
Be sure not to abuse this privilege and only text your therapist during reasonable hours!
Also, ask them what they expect from you. They can’t come over, so you are the one who has to be hands on here. You need to be the one who is leading the session with their direction. Be ready to take their direction, and give your full attention to the session.
Tip #2: Have your space and supplies prepared in advance.
Your therapists’ time is precious. You do not want them on a video call silently watching you gather materials. Try your best to do this before hand.
This is a great topic to discuss with your providers in advance. In speech the other day, we used a Mr. Potato head. She had hers and we had ours, so we were able to work on identifying body parts together with her guidance, while Nicholas built his little potato man.
Our physical therapist gave us a list of things we would need prior to our session that we got together in the living room before we started. Stools, couch cushions, etc. This helped us be ready to try everything she asked us to with minimal time waste.
Another thing to think about doing in advance is getting them used to video chatting with people. Video chat with family members and friends with your child so they can get the idea that this is live, and not just a video. It shows them that they can participate in communication with someone within that little rectangle you are always pointing at them.
Nicholas is obsessed with video chatting with people, and if someone doesn’t answer our facetime call, he gets so mad! So having the therapist pick up and be a smiling familiar face makes him so happy!
Tip #3: Schedule your session at an optimal time for your child, and for you.
Don’t try and have your child work hard to be engaged when you know they are going to be hungry or tired or generally cranky. I schedule mine after snack but before nap. That is right when Nicholas has a new boost of energy, and the session can tucker him out for his nap.
So, I guess that is an optimal time for me as well, since getting babies down for a nap easily is a parent’s dream!
These therapists are working from home, so in our experience, there has been a wider flexibility in session time choices than normal. One even meets with us on Saturdays. Even if this isn’t the case, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Tip #4: Show them what your kiddo has been doing for fun.
We bought Nicholas this fisher price basketball hoop for something different to do during quarantine.
We were so excited to show our PT how well he dunks the ball and the first thing she said, after cheering him on through multiple slam dunks, was “does that hoop go any higher?” She had us raise the hoop for him and and it not only became more of a strength challenge for him, but more fun as well! You can see in the video that it was way too easy for him!
Honestly, I think my husband and I have more fun with it than he does. It’s a great way to see who has to change the next diaper!
Tip #5: Set goals with your therapists, and work on meeting them.
There might be things that you wish your child was doing, or have things that they are not doing that you have started to notice while being quarantined with them 24/7. The therapists want to know this information. This helps them plan their lessons for you.
You may not know the goals and need your therapist to guide you here. I know that in the past, since Nicholas is my first child, I asked his therapists for help in this area because frankly I did not know what he should be accomplishing at his stage of development. If you ask for help in this area, I am sure you will get a huge range of options from your therapists!
Tip #6: Ask for homework
If your child is working on building strength, ask your PT for moves you can do with your child to help with this. Allow them to lead you in showing you the correct moves and let them give you feedback. It would be a shame to work on something with poor form for a week only to have to unlearn it.
Here’s the big one: Don’t forget to actually do the homework!
Trust me, it is so hard to not succumb to the lazy life of quarantine. But, if you make your child’s “homework” a part of your regular routine, then they only way to go is up! It can even be a short 10 minute practice. As long as it is regular, you are doing something meaningful.
Tip #7: Be prepared to report back on your homework.
The therapists need to know how it went in order to assign you new homework. If a certain exercise or learning task is not working out, they can come up with a wide array of options to replace it.
However, they will never know to do this if you don’t tell them!
You should also let them know about new skills that they may have mastered since the last time they worked together. If your child is successfully eating with silverware, it would be a waste of precious therapy time to plan an execute a lesson on using silverware.
Your therapists have had tons of training and schooling on their area of expertise, so not using that expertise is such a waste! Communicate every concern that you have with your therapists, even if you think it is small. It is all information that is helpful to them.
I hope this guide helps. Feel free to share it with your special needs community! Comment below on how teletherapy is going for your family so far!