Tips for Early Intervention Telepractice

  • Sunday, June 7, 2020
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If you’re a therapist working with the 0-3 population via telepractice for the first time, you may be worried about filling up the whole session time. Well first off; you’re not alone. That’s one of the top reported reasons therapists are worried that telepractice won’t be a good fit for their youngest clients. This blog provides practical tips for early intervention telepractice, using a weekly parent interview.

During a home visit, moving from one room to the next takes time; manipulating toys and materials takes time; greeting families takes time. You may be concerned you’re going to run out of things to do and say when you’re sitting in front of a screen.

On top of that, you naturally want to make every second count for the family...give them the most bang for their buck, if you will. There’s no single solution that fits every situation when it comes to early intervention telepractice ,but this one comes pretty close. Weekly parent interviews! Commit to beginning each therapy session with a parent interview and watch the magic happen.

What magic, exactly?

On top of the obvious answer “it takes up time”, here are some more ways that adding a parent interview will improve your treatment via telepractice:

• It builds rapport. Checking in with the family shows them you actually care how things are going and want to adjust your plan to suit their needs. You might ask “how did my idea about bath time go this week?,” and they may say awful, but that’s a lot better than them just ignoring the rest of your suggestions in the future, because the first one didn’t work! If it didn’t work, spend time figuring out why. Families need to be heard.

• It’s an easy way to get more treatment ideas. For example, the parent says “well the hardest part of our week was mealtime. Susie throws a fit every time she’s out of food on her plate!” and boom! You’ve got a new goal to target the “more” sign.

• Checking-in builds accountability. If you start asking specifics about how their home program went each week, the family may be more likely to remember to try it, so they have something to report next time!

• Spending time on coaching and conversation reduces session planning time. Not every pediatric therapist loves developing detailed session plans with 16 activities each week, and that’s okay. Spend time talking with the family, giving feedback, and learning what matters most to them. You can’t go wrong. Conversation about the child’s goals and daily activities is never a waste of anyone’s time. Also, if you make the right list of questions, you can use that same list most weeks with most kids. So spend the time to make one good list one time, get it uploaded to your resources, and you’re set for months!

So there’s the “why”. Here’s the “how”:

Depending on the family, they may like the structure of the routine, and you may want to screen-share during your telepractice session while you do it; showing them the questions and typing in their answers as you go (or if you’re using Theraplatform, you can upload a PDF document with the questions written and add their answers as you go. You can also share a weekly intake form on TheraPlatform with a parent ahead of time so a parent can fill it out at home and then you can review it together.)

You might say, “Before we get started with anything else today, I want to check in on how things went this week, so we know how I can help you in the future. Just answer these questions as honestly as you can, remember my goal is accommodate your family’s needs and target the skills that are most important to you and your child”

For other families, you may not want to formally announce “this is interview time”; rather you’d just start with a more informal check-in and ask some of the questions I suggest at the end of the article.

You might say, “I remember you saying last week that Johnny was always throwing his toys instead of playing with them. I had suggested using verbal praise every time he played correctly. Did you notice any improvements this week?”

Whether you decide to keep things super organized and visual by uploading a list of questions and taking notes on them for your family to follow along with, or you decide to keep it more conversational, you might consider having a go-to list of questions for reference.

Here are a few ideas:

• Tell me something fun you did with your child this week
  (Provide feedback on how to add developmental activities to this routine)
• Tell me about a difficult interaction you had with your child this week
 (Give them ideas to improve this interaction)
• Tell me one time you incorporated something we learned in our last session while interacting with your child this week
• Is there a certain skill you’d like to work on this week?
• Have there been any big changes this week?
• What toys has your child been interested in this week?
• What skills seem to be improving for your child right now?

What other questions would be useful to you and your clients for early intervention telepractice? Let us know, so we can keep a running list!

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