Therapy during COVID-19 / Telehealth
We were all thrown for a loop when COVID 19 hit us full force. Suddenly therapists had to recreate schedules, procedures, and therapy. In-home providers have to wear masks, gloves, wash hands upon entry and exit, and most importantly, educate patients and family on the new procedures.
We, thankfully, also had the option to provide teletherapy services instead of putting ourselves and our patients at risk for infection. I, personally, chose to take the teletherapy route. At the start, I had been just doing evaluations, but until my assistants were able to provide teletherapy services, I started seeing those patients so they wouldn’t miss out on crucial services. Slowly, I began to take on my own caseload when my assistants, thankfully, were able to provide teletherapy.
The beginning of teletherapy could have presented some challenges, as I as well as the patients and families were new to the whole thing. Some parents had to get used to Zoom, others had to get used to staying next to their child throughout therapy when they were used to leaving the room while the therapist was over. And of course, not all patients are ideal candidates for teletherapy, depending on their age and deficits. I have one patient who wanted nothing to do with me over Zoom. He would run out of the room or not look up at me while I was trying to engage. Quickly, his mother and I switched gears. We focus the session on her playing with him, while I facilitate and that way the pressure has been taken off of the patient. I send follow up emails with book titles, websites, and ideas to help the mother grow his receptive and expressive language through play. Luckily, since the pressure is off, he now engages with me throughout the session, so his mother and I take turns.
Teletherapy has been tremendous for the mother’s growth of the parent education goals. Even in person, I have never had a parent so involved in her child’s session. There’s a bond between therapist and patient (and family), but I felt as though COVID-19 makes the bond stronger. Sympathy, understanding, and sensitivity are so evident in my patients’ families. If a last minute rescheduling is needed due to illness, childcare issues, or simply being overwhelmed due to the circumstances, it’s always taken with great respect and sensitivity. I feel like we are all in this together. We’re doing our part and staying home, trying to make the best of situations.
Throughout all of the chaos, the office staff at Small Hands Big Hearts has been there every step of the way. We’ve gotten encouragement and accolades, as well as support and understanding. Their efficiency and productivity did not waver in the slightest throughout the shift, they quickly learned the ropes of obtaining authorization and consents for teletherapy, and I do not feel as though my patients suffered at all.
SHBH Speech Language Pathologist