A PT’s Perspective // Gopi Pitcher, PT, DPT
In this unprecedented time with families and communities trying to find a balance of being safe, healthy and still going about their daily lives, COVID 19 has stimulated the need for change in previously “typical” routines. When asked to reflect on Tele therapy, I was surprised at the realization of the immense feeling of gratitude because teletherapy has allowed me to continue to provide quality of care to my families.
Getting my feet wet during the first few sessions was tricky. I asked the families to take me on a virtual tour of their home. This allowed me to see the space, toys, items etc., available during future sessions. My kids were excited to show me around the home, to see their room, play areas and of course, whatever current project they were completing for school. Meanwhile, I’m trying to not get nauseous while the camera is heavily bouncing around while my kids take “Ms. Gopi for a spin.” After the initial few sessions, things got smoother. To help me plan my activities I pick a theme for the week and then tailor that to each child’s particular goals and skill levels. For example, last week everyone learned Sock Ball, this week was “Ms. Gopi’s Olympic Games.” I’ve created print outs and emailed the parents prior to the session to have ready for PT.
During the sessions, the parents are very involved. I can’t be there to help facilitate the activities and tasks so the parents have to help “be my hands” to guide and cue the kids during PT. I educate the purpose behind each activity and demonstrate how parents can either increase or decrease difficulty of the tasks. I visually demonstrate through the video screen activities such as jumping jacks, cross crawls, animal walks and other large gross motor movements. For my younger patients under 1 year, I utilize a doll to demonstrate hand placement and positions to the parents.
I believe Teletherapy has allowed families to “zoom” in (pun intended) as to what pediatric therapy entails. Parents have commented they’ve realized how pediatric therapy goes beyond the physical functional skills. Families expressed appreciation of taking the time with their child to build confidence, practice self-awareness of their body during activities, facilitate self-expression for needs when frustrated and of course, celebrate all victories, no matter the size.
I am truly honored to be a part of a network of healthcare providers who strive to make every session beneficial, therapeutic, and productive for our families. I have continued to build connections with my kids, and parents in a new way, which may have been lost if teletherapy was not available and services ceased. My hope is for teletherapy to have continued coverage, bringing sustainable changes, even after overcoming COVID 19.