How We Make Teletherapy Work for Us
If you had told me a year ago that all of my son’s therapies would be done virtually, I probably would have felt some relief. I was surprised to discover, though, that teletherapy can be much more draining that in-person sessions were.
With at least five therapies a week, our family quickly realized that something had to give before the burnout got in the way.
The Power of the Cotreat
In the past, I assumed that therapists would rather not co-treat with one another, since a one-on-one session is probably more effective. If we’re exhausted, though, even a one-on-one session doesn’t give as much benefit. So, I created a monthly schedule of our availability and asked our therapy team to co-treat with one another whenever they could.
It was an adjustment at first, but the benefits, for us, have outweighed the flaws. Our therapists get to see what the other specialties work on and can bounce ideas off of each other. Plus, we reduce the amount of time we spend in front of the computer screen while still getting the benefits of a variety of different therapies.
One of the hardest adjustments with our switch to teletherapy was just having materials. Our therapists would often ask us if we had a certain toy nearby, and the state of my increasingly messy pandemic house was not the best for finding specific toys quickly.
So, I started sending an email to the therapy team on Sunday evenings to see if we could come up with a couple of activities ahead of time. This way, I could gather the necessary materials without wasting time in the session trying to find things or having to change the plan because I couldn’t dig something up.
Find a Common Thread
As we’ve all gotten used to doing a little more communication as far as planning ahead for teletherapy sessions, I recently started a new idea of having a theme for the week and passing it along to the therapists in my Sunday email. They don’t have to use the theme if they don’t want to, but it can provide a nice common element for my family as we practice things and do activities--or even just talk with each other--throughout the week.
My son is young and working on developing foundational language, so our themes are centered around core words like go, see, like, etc., but themes can also be centered around the time of year, favorite objects, and even people or places.
Of course, this idea could just feel like too much. The key for our family as far as anything goes with teletherapy is to give ourselves permission to take a step back. Some days, my little guy is too cranky to make a therapy session productive, so I just ask if we can have a grown-up conversation about strategies during the session and let him do his own thing. Some days, the session just isn’t working, so I ask if we can cut it a little short.
The operative word in those previous sentences is ASK. Your therapy team wants to make this work for your child and your family, but they can’t read your mind. Being an effective team means asking for what you want or need and helping each other help your child reach their goals and milestones.