Sadly, because of the school closures brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be a while before you can work with students in school buildings again. However, teletherapy for OTs means you can go continue helping them reach their goals!
You can do so much via online occupational therapy to keep kids motivated and making progress—provided you take time to plan a productive approach. These tips from OTs and COTAs who work with us at Pediatric Therapeutic Services (PTS) can help you do just that.
Bring Your Students’ Parents into Your Planning Process
Students’ circumstances vary from household to household, so be sure to make parents or guardians part of the planning process so everything will be ready when your online therapy services begin.
Setting your sessions up for success starts with setting yourself up for optimal viewing. You need to be able to clearly see what your students are doing, and they need to see you. Work with kids and their parents to find the boundaries of what everyone can see while video conferencing.
Keep in mind–you won’t be able to use your usual toys or “bag of tricks.” Choose activities requiring minimal equipment. Discussing what the family has available for use—toys, games, puzzles, manipulatives, and also a printer for printing out worksheets—can help you plan productive sessions.
Sending parents a reminder list of what to have on hand will help them better prepare. Also, having the parent or child give you a video tour of the room they’ll be working in can help you get a good idea of what resources they have.
Make Space for Sensory Input in Teletherapy Sessions
Even though you must be physically distant from your students right now, teletherapy for OTs affords lots of opportunities for introducing sensory activities:
- Tell students to smear materials like shaving foam and squirty whipped cream on a cookie sheet. Each is a super medium for practicing letter formation, and this activity can also help lower tactile defensiveness.
- Have parents hide objects in a pillowcase so the child can describe what they feel inside it (without looking, of course!). This game nurtures sensory integration and re-education.
- Give parents a recipe for homemade playdough if they don’t have store-bought. Students can work with it to strengthen their fingers and hands while improving their dexterity and bilateral integration.
The strengthening activities described below are also easy ways to incorporate proprioceptive input!
Incorporate Core- and Upper Extremity-Strengthening Activities
Your students’ physical activity will be far more limited while they’re confined at home. Finding ways to maintain and build their strength is especially important.
To improve students’ core strength, have them use weight-bearing, static positions, such as quadruped or prone on elbows, so you get some core activation during an activity. For example, if the family has building blocks or plastic bricks, the student can build a tower while in one of these positions.
Here are a couple suggestions for making old favorites fresh and new for the home:
- The Superman
Tell the student to lay on the floor on their stomach, trying to lift their arms off the floor so their upper chest is lifted as well. Can they lift their legs off the ground? How about their arms and legs at the same time? You can also incorporate a song or a game of “Simon Says” into this exercise.
- The Crab Walk
In a usual crab walk, a child plants their arms and legs on the ground, lifts their body upward, and moves face up with only their hands and feet touching the floor. To do extra work on core stability and body awareness, have them place something on their belly and see if they can crab walk without it falling off.
Let’s Meet Online Occupational Therapy Challenges Together!
For OTs, teletherapy is going to demand every bit of commitment, creativity, and patience they can muster, but the benefits far outweigh the costs:
- You’ll make your sessions fun and exciting using online activities and videos via screen sharing.
- You’ll promote more carryover of therapeutic activities in the home by increasing family members’ engagement, maximizing your work’s long-term impact.
- You’ll grow in your competence and confidence as an occupational therapy provider.
If you’re looking for more ideas for parents and families, visit our website. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of that page to check out our teletherapy ideas and resources just for you!