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Maintaining and Improving Development during COVID-19

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, The Emerge Center has started using telehealth as a way to maintain and continue therapy services for some of our clients. Telehealth will look different depending on each child’s strengths and weaknesses and the type of therapy they are receiving whether it’s an Occupational Therapy session, a Speech-Language session, or parent training with a Behavior Analyst or Psychologist.  Since we work with such young children, in most cases, the sessions incorporate both a parent/guardian and the child.  

As a parent, you might wonder how a therapist expects to do teletherapy with active little ones over a video feed! In fact, research shows that this type of therapy can be effective and impactful. Since the focus will be on coaching parents and helping them learn how to use helpful strategies at home, we can increase the child’s opportunities for success in everyday activities with family members. 

We will use your child’s therapy evaluations, your knowledge of strengths and weaknesses in the home environment, and our clinical expertise to target improving your child’s skills. Melissa Handy, Speech-Language Therapist and Clinical Supervisor at Emerge, shared this snapshot of her recent teletherapy session with a 2-year-old client: 

The video platform for our sessions worked beautifully and mom started the “call” with her two year old when she was changing his diaper, which I loved! #reallife 

First, we talked about what it’s like to change his diaper – Does he fight you or cooperate? Do you have him help (for example, ask him to go get the diaper)? Does he follow simple instructions related to diaper changing? What do you talk about during the diaper change? Mom said she uses words like stinky and makes faces – which opened up a wonderful opportunity to help her target imitation of sounds and facial expressions. We also talked about opportunities to label basic body parts, all while making it a fun little social game. 

For the next 20+ minutes, that little cutie who is such a busy-body, sat in the chair, made choices, verbalized, and interacted while having snack! He even tried to feed me a bite through Mom’s phone! Mom was amazing as she implemented recommendations related to giving choices, modeling appropriate language, and encouraging communication at his level. Her little one said new words and most importantly, Mom practiced presenting words and directions at his level, a skill that she can start to use during the course of the day.

I explained to mom that we will be working together to integrate more opportunities for language during the activities that they already do every day. The goal is to improve this little friend’s speech-language skills in his natural environment where there are so, so many opportunities for them to practice. Both mom and I are looking forward to our ongoing teletherapy sessions, until we can see each other again face-to-face, hopefully sometime soon!

Parent coaching is a well-researched, valid form of therapy. It is a WONDERFUL way to target improving Speech-Language skills and transferring knowledge and skills to parents. It’s a blessing that teletherapy is an option for us!