Last December, I was fortunate enough to attend a class in Birmingham, Alabama at the Occupational Therapy Department on CBIT (Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics) strategies for clients with Tourette’s Syndrome. When tele-therapy was discussed as being a useful tool, I could not imagine using a computer/iPad to communicate with the children I see for Occupational Therapy. Three months later, tele-therapy became a necessity as I could not travel to the homes of our clients due to COVID-19.

Much to my surprise, tele-therapy has provided a new and exciting twist for therapy sessions. I have been forced to problem solve in non traditional ways. One of our clients demonstrated good pre-reading skills, but how to demonstrate this using tele-therapy? As we had already been using the excellent program of Handwriting Without Tears, prior to COVID-19, it seemed appropriate to use their reading readiness evaluation to support OT objectives of scanning, fine motor and visual motor skills. As the parents are part of our therapy team, Mom, Dad and I coordinated having duplicate materials at home and a strategy for each session. Incredible team work from Cindy and Bill Burroway, Physical Therapists and co-owners of Atlanta Children’s Therapy Associates, meant alphabet blocks were delivered to their home in the early COVID-19 weeks when therapists were mainly doing tele-therapy from home. Lekotek of Georgia, Inc. was also a participant as the Lekotek leader (Angela Cremers) had provided a duplicate set of capital letters, which we were able to use to test letter identification.

As we had surmised, our client passed the Handwriting Without Tears reading readiness evaluation. Mom was able to adapt the capital letters’ set to duplicate the test page. Through the Caribu site, our client is able to practice these skills not only for both letter/word formation, but also for turning pages virtually (another OT objective) on his iPad. Through the excellent support of both Helene Prokesch, director of Lekotek of Georgia, Inc., and Erika Laibson, Speech Therapist, our client is following age appropriate stories, counting, identifying colors, and drawing/coloring on his iPad. The team’s outstanding Physical Therapist, Ilana Danerman, continues to provide strategies for positioning, strengthening and facilitation for increased range of motion (ROM) for our client’s upper and lower extremities.

As our client is seen bi-weekly for Occupational Therapy, he now gets one tele-therapy session and one outdoor session for additional fine/visual motor and sensory input, weather permitting. Tele-therapy has been a new path for all of us; our team meets monthly to share ideas and strategies to enhance our sessions.

Teresa S. Shartar MS, OTR/L
August 25 , 2020