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What Happens During a Telehealth Session for Pediatric Therapy?

What Happens During a Telehealth Session for Pediatric Therapy?

By Gina Gibson, Fraser Occupational Therapist and Sensory Inclusion Specialist • April 30, 2020

Telehealth allows people to receive virtual therapy in their homes. During the COVID-19 outbreak, many families have opted to connect to a therapist virtually through a smartphone, tablet or computer. Fraser telehealth services for individuals and families helps meet that demand.

Telehealth even works for more hands-on therapies like physical and occupational therapy.  To help demystify the experience, Fraser Occupational Therapist and Sensory Inclusion Specialist Gina Gibson answers some questions about what occurs during a typical Pediatric Therapy telehealth session.

How long do these sessions last?

Telehealth sessions are about 30 – 45 minutes.

What occurs during the first telehealth appointment?

If it’s a new client, we start with an evaluation appointment. I request an updated medical history and then ask questions about sensory skills, fine motor skills and self-care skills.

If it’s a current client, we pick up with where our therapy left off. I talk with parents about our goals and how we can work toward those goals with what they have available. I emphasize to parents that they don’t have to buy things for our therapy. We can work with what’s in their home.

How do you usually start a telehealth session?

To start a session, I share my screen, and I use the Zoom whiteboard feature to create a schedule for the day. If I’m working with an older child, I may have them write out their own schedule for the day. The Zoom whiteboard also has a stamp option, which allows kids to check off their tasks.

In my sessions, I meet with the parent and a child. I check in at the beginning and ask if they’ve tried any strategies, or if anything has come up since we last met.

What happens next?

We warm-up. We might do arm circles, a crab walk or some yoga poses. I often ask what the child’s favorite video/song is right now. Then I go to the YouTube video, share my screen and we have a little dance party.

What are some typical activities you do?

During an occupational therapy session, I work with a child on fine motor skills, self-care tasks and regulation skills. However, what we cover depends on how long the child can stay engaged. I focus on the child’s greatest needs.

For fine motor skills, we might peel stickers off a sticker sheet, practice handwriting, put beads on a string or cut things out of paper. Basically, we’re making the child’s hands and fingers stronger.

Working on self-care skills can be easier through telehealth. The children can work on brushing their teeth in their bathroom. Or maybe we are focusing on self-feeding. Children practice eating at their table with their food.

For regulation skills, we might work on different sensory strategies using a sensory bucket or bin. For older kids, I might help them identify their emotions. We would talk about different occasions when they got upset or sad and find ways to change these feelings.

How do you end a session?

I give the child and the parent strategies and homework. Then we talk about the plan for the next session, and I email these strategies and plans to the parents.  

How have you adapted therapy for telehealth?

The therapy is much more parent-coached because I’m not there in person with the child. Instead, I’m explaining to parents how to do hands-on intervention, but also making sure they don’t do too much for their children. Children still need to learn how to do these skills independently.

What ways has telehealth helped families?

Parents have realized they can use tools at home to help their children. Parents also have been more involved in therapy. They are asking for homework and then working on these interventions at home, which helps their child improve and grow.