Tele-health or Tele-help!?: Tips for Navigating Your Child’s Virtual Therapy Session

Family around a computer

Virtual therapy got you stressed? For many, the thought of adding even just one more Zoom call to your weekly planner can make you want to call a time-out on this new virtual lifestyle we’ve all been thrown into.

As a physical therapist-gone-virtual myself, I can admit firsthand that the concept of telehealth for gross motor activities seemed far-fetched to me in the beginning. While I do believe that most physical therapists thrive the most when we can see our clients in-person, I have grown to learn that virtual physical therapy sessions can be extremely effective when parents keep an open mind and play an active role in the carryover of their child’s therapy at home.

For parents, engaging in virtual therapy with their child can feel stressful, overwhelming, and challenging. That being said, telehealth is still the safest option for many families, and I will argue that virtual sessions are much more beneficial than no sessions at all. Below, I’ve outlined some tips, tricks, and general insight to help ease your mind as a parent if you’re feeling a lot of pressure during virtual therapy. In case nobody told you, you aren’t the only parent feeling this way!

 

  • It’s okay to feel unsure about the new role you are playing during your child’s therapy session! As a parent, you already wear several different hats a day for your child. You might have taken on a role as “teacher” with e-learning, you’re a mediator and a referee between siblings, a doctor when your little one falls and gets hurt, and a cheerleader when they need some extra motivation. With the switch to virtual therapy, many parents have reported that they don’t know how to be a PT, OT, etc. (which totally makes sense!). Parents often report that they feel inadequate during Zoom calls for therapy because they don’t think they are “doing it right.” Try thinking of the flip-side and remember the benefits to this mode of service delivery: instead of dropping your child off at the clinic and hearing a condensed two-minute summary about what they did today in PT, you get the full experience! You now get to be present in the entire session so you can see what worked well and what did not. Stay positive. Remember that you will now have greater knowledge about how to carry out their home exercise program during the week, and that often leads to meeting goals quicker.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Just as with learning any other new skill, there are numerous benefits to asking questions. If your therapist asks, “Does this make sense?” or “Do you feel comfortable trying that with him/her?”, answer honestly. If you tried to replicate the exercise, but you feel fairly lost, speak up! Giving your therapist feedback about what you are seeing, hearing, and feeling from your child will only help your therapist tailor their treatment approach to your child’s needs even further. Don’t feel nervous about asking questions during the session or asking your therapist to repeat the instruction they gave you. Everyone’s learning style is different. Some people are visual learners, some are auditory learners, and still others are kinesthetic learners (those that like to “do” and “feel”). Asking questions and conveying your learning style can help your therapist understand what techniques to use when coaching a parent during a virtual treatment session.
  • Have a general plan or focus each week (prepare materials, etc.):  Some families do best when their therapist sends a quick email prior to their next scheduled session to touch base on what the plan will be. It can help the therapist and the family to have a loose plan in place, knowing that certain activities may not go smoothly or might not work well, but having some ideas to fall back on. Prepping materials for PT sessions can help save time, such as having a ball, masking tape, a laundry basket, or couch cushions ready. If similar items are used each week, families can keep a small box of therapy equipment that they rely on weekly and add to it as needed.
  • Record the session to review or reference it later: Most platforms, like Zoom, have an option to record your video calls. As a parent, you can talk with your therapist about recording some of the sessions if you find it helpful to play them back again later during the week. You can skip ahead to the parts of the session that might need a second look in order to try exercises again with your child later. If your child is older and more independent with their exercises, they can reference the videos’ instructions for completing their home programs. Note – consult with your individual therapist about any HIPAA forms that may need to be completed prior to recording all or part of a session.
  • It’s okay if your child won’t participate in the full session: Think of your telehealth session as a parent coaching session. During the video call, your therapist can coach you through the exercises and activities she would like you to try engaging in with your child. There will likely be days that your child participates smoothly in these activities, and more than likely, there will be days when they will have greater difficulty attending. They might become distracted by the use of screens or they might even have a major meltdown during the session, and that’s absolutely okay! Parents should recognize that children have meltdowns with their therapist during in-person sessions, too. If the child begins to cry or tantrum during a telehealth session, parents can always take a break from the planned activity and use the time in other valuable ways. This can include the therapist discussing other activities to try later on without the video, Q&A time between parent and therapist, and general discussions of what is working well and what isn’t. Parent coaching and education is extremely important to your child’s success in therapy. Any part of your session that isn’t “active” time with your child participating should not be wasted time. Use the remaining time to redirect your child, allow them to take a break, and/or to consult directly with the therapist and problem-solve.

 

Would your child benefit from working with one of our physical therapists? Contact us today to schedule an evaluation or complimentary screening!

Written by: Jessica Tarence, PT, DPT

Discover how our autism treatment services can help you

Discover how our autism treatment services can help you

Get Social With Us

Related Posts