Therapy Connections Online
Telemedicine services are a new way to provide specialty care
Online therapy provides many therapy or medical services online conveniently at home. Pediatric patients can enjoy the comforts of familiar surroundings, prompt and flexible scheduling for occupational, speech and other therapies. Research shows telemedicine can be as effective as being there in person.
Teleconferencing — where the therapist and patient meet via computer instead of in an office — offers a child the convenience and comfort of being in his or her own home, and is especially helpful if a patient is homebound.
“In the last five years, telemedicine services have really taken off as a way to provide specialty care,” says Jonathan Linkous, CEO, Telemedicine Association in Washington, DC. It’s “transforming all of healthcare. In some cases, for some patients, it might even be better than seeing someone in their office.”
Comfortable therapeutic environment
Children are most comfortable in a familiar environment. Unlike a medical facility, which might be scary, confusing, or distracting, connecting from home or school leads to increased student engagement. For preschoolers, a caregiver or parent works directly with the child to help carry out the therapist’s instructions.
Having an adult facilitator helps a child carryover the skills into other environments, and “can help access the technology, redirect the student if necessary, and access on-site materials,” said Catherine Doran, supervisor of preschool speech and language services and Therapy Connect at the Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU).
“For example, if the preschooler is receiving the services at home with a parent facilitating, the parent is seeing all of the strategies the therapist uses and can implement those strategies throughout the child’s whole day,” says Doran. For school-aged services, a paraprofessional can help facilitate the skills across the school day.
Easy access to therapies
In an age when we do our banking, shopping and communicating electronically, getting therapy services in the same way is a natural next step. At the forefront of offering telepractice services through web conferencing, Therapy Connect provides speech and language, hearing and vision support, occupational therapy and mental health counseling to children from birth to 21 in Chester, Lancaster and Lebanon counties.
Understanding that telepractice services rely on high quality technology — a strong internet connection and well-functioning computer — Therapy Connect provides the family with the computer, wireless internet, support to access the service, and technical help within each session. There are no costs to the student’s family who can use the equipment until the child completes therapy.
Technology offers broader flexibility in scheduling, as therapists and educators don’t need travel time to get to a student. A therapist with a very specialized skill set has the ability to see more students.
Telemedicine serves pediatric patients
When Rebecca Pollock recognized that her son, Tim, now 5, had a speech delay, she wanted to get him speech therapy. But with nine kids under the age of 15, taking Tim to the therapist meant also bringing along several of his siblings. In addition, one of his brothers was fighting leukemia and couldn’t be out in public while undergoing chemotherapy.
Telemedicine was the perfect solution. For the past year, once each week for a half hour, Tim and his mom log onto their laptop to connect with the Therapy Connect therapist.
“I was skeptical at first,” admits Pollock, from Coatesville. I thought it might be hard to build a rapport with the therapist because children are highly motivated by relationships. I wasn’t sure if he would develop a relationship online.”
In fact, he did and has made such great strides that when Tim starts kindergarten next year, he will no longer need speech therapy. Tim is not alone.
“We have outcome data that shows that students have done remarkably well both for student engagement and student progress,” says Doran. “It’s exciting to have a new option to offer, and to also know that it’s effective.”
Terri Akman is a local freelance writer.
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