An OT’s perspective | Jennifer Coyne, MS, OTR/L
As occupational therapists we pride ourselves on being flexible, adapting to the environment and adjusting our plans to meet the needs of our clients at every moment. In the past, kids have thrown me curveballs to keep me on my toes, but nothing has shifted my practice like the experience of moving to teletherapy. This experience has changed my job at its core. Shifting to teletherapy has stripped away the layers of in-person interaction that really made me fall in love with this profession. In our new reality, teletherapy often leaves us with just our voices to direct and coach activities on the other side of the screen.
At times I am frustrated that I can’t interact with my clients in the way I am used to. I miss climbing on the swings with them, laying on the floor with them to play a game, and guiding their actions as they try something for the first time. If a child is having a meltdown or needs a break during our session in the clinic, sitting with them in silence feels compassionate and bonding; over a screen at times I feel powerless to help.
Most times however, I am extremely grateful for the opportunities that teletherapy affords. It has allowed me to see my client’s natural environment, and I am exposed to a different side of the families with whom I work. I feel privileged that you all allow me into your homes and share in this new level of intimacy. This opportunity allows me to problem solve difficulties at home in a way that can be tricky to replicate in the clinic. I’ve gotten to know you all, some parents whom I have worked with for years, on a totally different level, and this experience has strengthened our partnership and deepened our understanding of each other’s experiences and goals with your children. The opportunity for parent coaching and collaboration is unmatched and the direct carryover into the home has been powerful. I also love setting up an activity and watching you and your kids connect while you play. It is empowering to leave parents with tools to teach their kids at a new level. This feels like a game changer to me!
I am grateful that in a time of social distancing, I can still connect with you. I am grateful that we can continue to be a resource for your families, albeit in a completely new way. Through true team efforts, our kids are still making steady progress. Two kids started to crawl during this last month and one chewed and swallowed a solid food for the first time!!! Other little ones have learned to pull up their pants, changed their pencil grasps, and deepened their play skills at home. These milestones are happening daily! While I look forward to the transition back to in-person treatment when the time is right, practicing via teletherapy has added another tool in my belt that I look forward to continue using in the future. This has permanently shifted my perspective of my role on your child’s team and I am so very thankful to you for entrusting me with this task.