Telehealth refers to any healthcare service that is provided over a technology platform. Telehealth is now being used for a variety of populations, health disciplines and diagnoses. Disciplines such as Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, Educational Therapy and Psychology are all able to provide a variety of support and care virtually using a computer or tablet platform.
Online therapy is provided in a similar manner as therapy that is delivered in face-to-face sessions. However, live video conferencing is used to address the child's therapy goals and provide guidance to parents and caregivers.
The therapist will provide the parent with a link and instructions about how to connect to the online platform. This may involve creating a Zoom or Skype account that will be used for the sessions. Usually, the therapist will test the Telehealth platform with the parent and child before they begin their first session. The therapist will also discuss with the parent what resources are available at home for the child to use during the sessions. Many Telehealth sessions require the same objects that a child would use in the centre. For example, for Occupational Therapy, to help strengthen a child's fine motor skills and reach developmental milestones, methods such as cutting skills and drawing are often used. For Speech Therapy on the other hand, the therapist may suggest resources like age appropriate books to expand the child's language abilities. Often a parent-coaching approach is used to guide parents to do therapy-like activities with their child at home in order to accelerate their progress. This way the parent learns exactly what to do and builds confidence in helping their child.
Telehealth provides therapy options within the comfort of the child's home environment. It provides ample opportunity for parent education and support from the therapist. It is convenient and keeps up to date with the latest trends. If you live far away from the centre or if transport is difficult, this is a way to bring occupational therapy, speech therapy, educational therapy or psychology into your home.
Benefits of Telehealth:
It is suitable for all children who have access to high-speed internet, and a tablet or laptop with a webcam. Children of all ages can be supported through Telehealth by the therapist and their parent or caregiver. For sessions with younger children or those who need hands on support, a parent or caregiver is required to be present for the session. Telehealth can cater to a wide variety of children including those with Developmental Delays, Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, Developmental Language Disorders, Language Disorders, Speech Sound Disorders, stuttering, difficulties with emotional regulation, and those that require counselling, educational support and many more.
This is a great opportunity for parents and caregivers to be supported to work with their child. The level of parent/caregiver participation will depend on the level of support the child requires. This can be explored with the therapist and a plan put in place in how best to support the child. Research has shown that parent coaching through telehealth has been effective in increasing parent efficacy and child participation (Little et al, 2018). Support can range from sensory needs, educational needs, emotional and counselling support or language skills.