Thursday, May 17, 2012

{tele}therapy: a mom's perspective

In today's busy, hustle bustle, gotta be here, gotta be there world, what is better than a mom's night-out?

At-home therapy appointments.

see Aiden and me on the screen?

Outside of changing Aiden's school this past March, we also changed his therapy program. We are still going full force with auditory verbal therapy, but in a little different way. Instead of driving nearly two hours to see our former av therapist, we decided to try out TELE-THERAPY, also known as, TELE-PRACTICE.

I want to start by saying that we love our AVT from the past two years. He will always be a huge part in Aiden's journey. The two hour drive to see him though was draining and the much needed consistency started to falter. Our therapy time was slipping. When you're traveling that far, with two older "activity busy" kids at home, AND gas prices are insane (right along with the insane copay), , AND by the time you get there your sensory seeking child is bouncing off the walls from being in the car for 2 hours AND you can barely get him to sit for another hour, much less listen and talk {WHEW}, it's time to make a change. So we did.

As I sought out options in our immediate area, I found our choices in certified auditory verbal therapists were far and few in between. I needed something close, something convenient for my WHOLE family, something that didn't stress me out each time I thought about it, and someone who was a right fit for Aiden. I wasn't finding it. There was ONE in our immediate area, who was new to the local CI center, and who already had a waiting list. And btw, I live in the suburbs of a major city in Ohio, imagine people with deaf children in rural areas. (to see how many certified AVTs in your area, go
HERE).

Then I met Todd Houston, PhD, CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert. AVT, and Associate Professor of Speech-Language Pathology at the University of Akron. After speaking with him about some of my concerns with Aiden, he introduced me to

{auditory verbal} tele-practice,

and we haven't looked back.

What is it?  

Simply put, tele-therapy, or tele-practice, is therapy via a secure internet connection from the comfort of your own home, therapist on one end, you and your child on the other through an online classroom. No major equipment is needed, outside of your computer, a webcam, and a microphone. HERE is an excellent {professional} article all about it.

mom's perspective: You don't leave your house. There are no extra gas prices, no extra hassles of packing everything up for a trip to therapy trying to make sure your child has a good lunch in them before hand AND some time to get their wiggles out before their therapy. Then finish up only to rush home for your other child to get off the bus or to take yet another child to lacrosse practice or rush to whatever "it" is, as a mom's schedule is never NOT busy.

What does a session encompass?
A few days prior to Aiden's session, I receive a very detailed lesson plan, along with other attachments created by the therapist to use in our session (bingo board, coloring page, game of some sort, etc). The lesson plan contains the different goals we're working on and an activity or two for each. Each week, as the goal stays the same (until met of course) the activities to meet that goal change. According to the lesson plan, I print off all attachments and gather all necessary materials (toys, items throughout the house, etc) needed to complete an activity. The lesson plan also contains ideas of what to say or ideas of items to use etc.

Once the therapy session starts, it's like your typical auditory verbal session, except I am the main therapist (which is what I do everyday, except now I get professional guidance, as I "perform", on how to teach my child to reach those goals). We start our session talking about Aiden's week, concerns, questions, etc then dive into the activities. Having all planned out lessons in front of me, allows me to let Aiden feel part of it all by giving him a couple activities to choose from. We complete an activity, get feedback from our therapist, then I provide Aiden two more activities from which to choose. The whole time he is engaged ... okay, most of the time he is engaged. It is a bit easier for him to stray and start talking about the dog messing with the cats, or the dump truck driving by. I actually find this beneficial, as it's conversational speech, and provides our AVT a good idea of where Aiden's spontaneous expressive speech is at. Plus, AV is all about language, so if I can get a good language lesson in on something he shows interest in, even better.

mom's perspective: I now have a binder full of planned out activities (and corresponding materials) for all his different goals and there is no more guess work when there is a lull in "what to do" in our daily at home "play" time. Oh, and the confidence gained from "being the therapist" for 60 full minutes, with true professional feedback on the other end, is pure awesomeness.

What are the benefits?
  • You are wearing the therapist shoes. It's not just watching, then modeling, then taking home to do. It is all doing, which I have found is key in carrying the goals on throughout the week. This way, our AVT can see me in action for the whole session, provide tips and guidance, and then I feel that much more comfortable carrying it out everyday at home.
  • The plethora of materials and activities at your fingertips is heaven! 
  • You get to see how all your child's toys, and many other objects throughout your house, are EXCELLENT therapy tools and different ways to include them in daily language.
  • A consistent up-to-date list of goals (which I know every parent should have at all times , but in all honesty, this doesn't happen). I can state his goals now better than I have ever been able to in the past. To me, (a little bit of a control freak), this is huge.
  • Better yet, you have multiple activity ideas to go with each goal (or did I say this already?). 
  • With a laptop, you can travel throughout the house (or throughout the US!). We've played grocery store (with real food from the kitchen and Aiden pushing around his shopping cart - LOVE it) in the playroom, cooked muffins in the kitchen, sat on the floor in the living room at my mom's house in WISCONSIN. It's versatile. It's changing yet consistent. It's innovative.
  • TIME - I can't stress enough how much time this has saved me (along with gas!). 
  • Aiden is in his natural element. He's more comfortable. In traditional therapy, he would clam up and never completely showed his true character. At home, Aiden is Aiden. He acts silly, he laughs, he jokes, and best of all, he talks and participates much, much more. 
  • Other family members can join in OR I can show a recorded session to my husband at a later time so he can feel more a part of Aiden's therapy too.
mom's perspective: If you haven't figured it out yet, I LOVE IT.  And when your child enjoys it and is asking, "Tomorrow we see Dr. Todd and Kelly and Anne?", you know he loves it too ... and that's what is most important.

What are the downsides?
  • Your printer ink costs increase (really I've only replaced one ink cartridge in three months). Although still A LOT cheaper than gas prices and crazy hospital copays.
  • If you are the type of person who needs that face to face, touchy-feely type interactions, this may not be for you.
  • It can get a little stressful on days other family (ahem, LOUD teenager) members are home or when Aiden is having an off day. What happens is I try to manage everything going on around me AND the session itself AND worry about getting in what we need to. Bottom line though, this is life. My stance this summer is going to be - if I can see you and hear you, you're joining in.
mom's perspective: there are downsides to everything, and if they outweigh the benefits, it's probably not worth going on with. You have to look at pros and cons for you and your family. Every child is different.

Aiden has honestly started to SOAR. I know there are a lot of factors that go into his recent explosion (change of school, more one-on-one time with mom, excellent OT services), but I do believe that the consistency of our weekly tele-practice sessions, have had a HUGE impact on it all. Not only from the consistency of a weekly therapy, and the consistency of having the activities to use on a day to day basis, but even more importantly - TIME .

Time is precious. The time saved from traveling to and from, is now time spent playing, talking, singing, interacting; it's time spent together. To me, this is priceless.

If you are interested in learning more about tele-therapy, you can contact Dr. Todd Houston at houston@uakron.edu. If you'd like more of a mom's perspective, feel free to contact me off line at aidensmom0317@gmail.com.

3 comments:

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Hi Tammy,

As always, it's a joy to hear that things are going so well for you and Aiden. And I love the way you encourage others - not that the same exact thing will work for every child, but to keep learning and trying new things to find what does work.

Cheers,

Julie

Danielle said...

So glad things are going well! This is amazing. I have never heard of this before.

Jodi Michelle Cutler said...

I came by to borrow some pix of Aiden and found this post...so out of the loop I am...so glad all is going well. I stole the whole post instead:-) Love you always..