In early March, when just about everyone’s world got turned on its head, I found myself on the edge of a brave new world, and I was terrified. Telehealth was something that I always wanted to get into properly, however it never seemed to be relevant to my workplace or a priority in the past – just always a ‘nice’ idea. Rewind to about six months ago, I had to learn quick to ensure that my clients still had access to a service to keep progressing with their goals.
There were many late nights and very sore eyes from hours upon hours of finding every article, webinar, infographic, and blog about telepractice to set myself up for success and, mostly, to reassure myself that everything was going to be just fine.
At first, I was really worried about how I was going to engage my clientele through a screen, as many on my caseload had complex needs and some of them a very narrow range of interests. Thankfully, I was blown away by how well my clients and their families engaged with telehealth. I saw a whole new side of them, and a window into their world. I met extended family members (who joined in the fun), met pets, and got to learn more about the things that really floated their boat. These things have gone on to inform some of the activities we do now.
But it is not to say that such a method of service delivery was appropriate for all my clients. There was one who was not interested in seeing my face on a screen and I pulled out so many ideas (including the one below) just to spark her interest and get talking. She got talking alright, she gave me the biggest “nooooooo” I had ever heard as she scampered away! Despite this brutal rejection, I was still able to provide support and ideas to her mum around modelling her AAC around motivating activities and to keep working towards her communication goals, even if the little client didn’t wish to see me.
Making an Emma Wiggle costume out of what I had laying around the house including the chamois I use to clean the bathroom and a very old and cheap wig.
An idea that I began incorporating into most of my sessions was for the family to take a photo of something fun they did in between sessions so we could talk about it. I shared photos of what I had been up to. Through this, I saw huge improvements in both the content and amount of language that was being exchanged in these sessions. This set my clients up to be more competent in sharing information about their interests as well as their recall abilities.
At the time of writing this blog, I have transitioned back to face-to-face therapy with most of my clients, however there’s a good section of them who have chosen to stay with telehealth as it works better for them logistically, particularly the few that experience real challenges managing their anxiety in the clinic. These clients are the ones I have guided to the most incredible progress since changing over to online.
A few lessons and tips from my journey:
- Don’t be afraid to have fun and be a bit weird. Find out what you have in the house to change up your look in order to create a create opportunity to communicate.
- Parent coaching using telehealth, in my opinion, is often easier and also a great opportunity to show parents how they can use items laying around their house to practice their child speech or language goals and have fun at the same time.
- Screensharing is endlessly engaging and useful. There are oodles of fun games online to play with clients and still achieve outcomes.
- Movement breaks are incredibly important, not only for the client on the other end, but for the therapist as well. Having less distractions working from home can be great for productivity, however it can be very easy to forget to take a break, stretch, and refresh.
- Telehealth is something that offers greater flexibility to my families, especially when coming to the clinic is stressful or difficult.
- Don’t knock it till you try it!