If your child was previously enrolled in a special education class or was receiving school or outpatient speech-language, occupational therapy or physical therapy, you may be concerned about the disruption in these services due to recent school and therapy office closures.

Just like teachers are now using tele-education to continue teaching your children, therapists are now using teletherapy to continue providing these important services. Many therapists who previously worked in schools or clinics are now having great success with teletherapy services. Through teletherapy services, your child can continue to have regularly scheduled appointments that address his or her goals.

Although there are certain advantages to therapy services provided in the schools and clinic locations, the recent use of teletherapy has also highlighted some advantages to this model of service delivery. During teletherapy, children are seen in the environment in which they spend most of their time - their home. Therapists are able to help children develop skills and routines in their homes, using the materials, toys, etc. that the child routinely has available. Parents are encouraged, and often needed, to participate in teletherapy sessions. This involvement and interaction with their child's therapist enable parents to learn ways they can further support their child's progress, and can improve the probability that techniques used in sessions become part of home routines.

Albeit, teletherapy was not how most therapists envisioned providing services this year. In this time of crisis and unpredictability, it has provided many children and their families with a continued connection to an important person in the child's life and has helped to keep established routines and structure. Most importantly, children are developing skills and enjoying the sessions.

FAQs

Does my health insurance cover teletherapy?

Many health insurance plans have expanded their coverage of teletherapy services. Even if your plan did not previously cover teletherapy, it may now cover it.

What supplies do I need for my child to participate in teletherapy?

To participate in teletherapy, your child needs an internet connection and a device with an integrated camera and microphone. A device like a personal computer, laptop or tablet is desirable, but it's also possible to have good sessions with just a smartphone. A child would also ideally have a quiet space to work with a desk or table and supplies, such as paper, pencil, crayons or markers, scissors and glue. If your child is younger, a small space with toys for play would also work.

Does my child need to have previously been in therapy to start teletherapy sessions?

No, however, each child will need to have an evaluation with goals. If your child does not have a recent evaluation report, he or she will need to be evaluated prior to starting services. In most cases, an evaluation can be done via teletherapy.

How often will my child receive therapy through teletherapy?

This will depend on your child's needs and your schedule. Your child's evaluation or progress report will determine the therapist's recommendation, but ultimately the child's parent decides if the child is able to participate in the recommended amount of therapy. Even once weekly therapy can have great benefits.

How long is each teletherapy session?

Sessions are 30- 60 minutes in length.

What if I do not think that my child would be able to participate in teletherapy sessions?

That is a valid concern. However, therapists are very skilled in keeping children engaged and will work with you and your child to maximize the benefits of teletherapy. In some cases, it may be more beneficial for a therapist to use a coaching model to support parents in helping their child achieve his or her goals. In this model, the child's parent engages the child in an activity and the therapist coaches the parent during the activity. Families have reported experiencing real "aha moments" during sessions like this.

How do I get more information or initiate teletherapy services for my child?

Many local therapy clinics are now providing teletherapy. Call or check their websites for information.


Tracy Wilson, occupational therapist, established The Pediatric Development Center in 2007, along with Amy Wetherill, speech-language pathologist. Everything they do is centered around play and practical experience. They believe that all children learn best through engaged participation during hands-on activities. Through a captivating, play-based model, the Pediatric Development Center (PDC) forms a strong partnership with children who have developmental challenges and their families. PDC provides collaborative speech-language, occupational, feeding and physical therapy services in offices in Rockville, Md. and Silver Spring, Md., as well as in clients' homes via teletherapy. For more information visit pdcandme.com.