Learning to provide telehealth physical therapy and telehealth occupational therapy is definitely a challenge. With these 10 pro tips, you’ll be on your way to stress-free telehealth therapy sessions in no time!
If you’ve spent the last several months feeling overwhelmed by constantly changing schedules and baffled by shifting service delivery models (from in-person, to hybrid, to remote and back again)…
If your stress level is through the roof as you navigate the switch from in-person to telehealth physical therapy sessions and occupational therapy sessions…
You’re in very good company.
We’ve spent this time providing telehealth therapy sessions and virtual play groups for our kids at The Treehouse and we’ve been taking careful notes about what strategies and resources have worked…and which ones haven’t been successful (yep, there have been a few bombs).
Today, we’re here to share some of our top tips and strategies for telehealth physical therapy and occupational therapy in hopes that they can provide a little bit of support during this challenging time.
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Pro Tips for telehealth physical Therapy and occupational therapy
1 || Plan ahead and prepare
Planning, organization and communication are key! Send an email to the parent or caregiver a day or two ahead of time including a link to where they can join the virtual session, a list of simple supplies they will need for the session, and any instructions about pulling up digital resources. Using Loom is a great way to record short videos of your screen with your voice explaining the process of opening and accessing files. Use our FREE Printable Virtual Therapy Planning Sheet to keep all of the information for your sessions in order!
2 || Try new tools/strategies with the caregiver
Use some of your sessions to demonstrate and trial new tools or strategies with the parent to ensure carryover at home. For example, try introducing transition strategies, visual timers, visual schedules, etc. Remember, if you are a school-based therapist providing virtual sessions for kids who are learning remotely, their educational environment is the home! This means that home-based strategies and interventions that aren’t typically part of our scope of practice as school-based therapists may come into play. Tips and strategies for supporting things like attention, positioning, and sensory processing needs during online learning will be hugely helpful for parents and caregivers!
3 || Use on-screen visuals to keep kids engaged
Try using online spinners, videos, and/or pdfs with colorful pictures to provide context and interest for therapy activities.
4 || Keep supplies and setup simple
Get creative and use simple supplies and materials that the family already has on hand. Our most commonly used items for telehealth physical therapy and occupational therapy sessions: paper plates, rolled socks, cardboard/paper, toys/stuffed animals, paper, crayons, scissors.
5 || Use interactive elements to keep kids’ attention
6 || Try to use a computer/tablet when possible, but be flexible!
When using digital visuals and/or interactive digital resources, having a larger screen is preferable to the small screen on a phone. However, many families don’t have access to a device other than their phone, so be ready to pivot and change up your activity to make it work. Videos, music, and visuals that you click through and control may be a better fit for a smaller screen than digital resources where the child or caregiver needs to click or drag.
7 || Don’t overthink it
The most important thing we’ve discovered about virtual sessions is that many/most of the activities we use during in-person therapy sessions can work for virtual sessions with a few modifications/additions.
8 || Focus on movement
Kids who are participating in remote learning are spending tons of time in front of screens. For many kids, screentime is also a primary leisure activity. This means that kids are doing a lot of sitting. Use your therapy session to infuse some movement into their day. The sensory benefits of a little vestibular and proprioceptive play can last for hours and can contribute to better engagement and focus during virtual classroom activities.
9 || Give homework – but make it fun!
Parents may be looking for fun ideas to keep kids entertained at home right now – especially activities that can keep kids busy while the adults in the house are working! Providing fun, playful ideas as a follow-up to your session can be a great way to continue to promote the skills your working on in therapy even after your session is over!
10 || Consider co-treating!
Therapists are rockstars at blending treatment sessions to accomplish everyone’s objectives! It can even help you come up with an off the cuff idea for addressing a skill when another team-member gives you a jumping off point!
We hope these ideas will be helpful to you as you navigate the challenges of teletherapy – if you’re looking for more support, remember to check out a behind the scenes peek at one of our virtual therapy sessions!
And don’t miss our Virtual Therapy pack! This resource is full of more than 60 fun, engaging, colorful interactive activities for your teletherapy practice!