Following the temporary suspension of our centre-based services during the Circuit Breaker, SPD’s Continuing Therapy Programme (CTP) began piloting telepractice with clients and their caregivers. SPD CTP’s programme head and senior speech therapist Faith Tan shares how therapists in the programme have been supporting the clients and their families remotely during this period.
Tapping on the power of technology, the telepractice sessions aim to allow clients to continue receiving their regular speech therapy or occupational therapy in order to maintain or achieve their therapy goals. Caregivers get to participate actively in these sessions and are being supported with home-based strategies during these 45-minute sessions which are conducted once a week.
The participants in this pilot service are aged 6 to 14 years old and require intervention in areas such as communication skills, fine and gross motor skills, or focus and attention span. Similar to face-to-face sessions, the therapists carry out intervention for the children and provide caregivers with home-based learning plans during telepractice. During these sessions, caregivers play an important role in facilitating and participating in the activities with their child.
As the intervention is conducted online, the team developed a guide to help caregivers in setting up and using video capabilities on Microsoft Teams. For families who needed more support, the therapists had arranged for troubleshooting sessions to help them in areas such as identifying a quiet room for the telepractice session, or setting up a stable Internet connection.
Prior to the telepractice sessions, the therapists had to adapt their resources for online intervention as centre-based resources such as gym equipment are less suitable for use online. To work around this, the occupational therapists collaborated with caregivers to identify household items such as coins, clothes pegs, and writing materials, that can be used. These items constitute the home resource kit which can be used in activities targeting fine motor skills and handwriting.
Speech therapists also created a range of online therapy resources with colourful illustrations and animations to replace printed cards often used during face-to-face therapy sessions. Videos that illustrate the targeted goals were also used. The combination of videos, slides and hands-on activities have helped to make the sessions interesting for the children.
As children tend to become restless after sitting in front of the computer for too long, the therapists also incorporated simple memory games, or movement breaks such as yoga to engage the children.
During these sessions, the therapists also discussed the weekly home plans with caregivers. These home plans allow caregivers and children to practise the targeted goals throughout the week. The home plans, together with the relevant resources, are emailed to caregivers after every session.
We are heartened to see that many caregivers were satisfied with the quality and delivery of the telepractice sessions. Mr Jonathan Cockett, whose sons attend CTP at the SPD Ability Centre, shared that the telepractice has worked well for him and his sons.
“The telepractice sessions have given Ryan and Owen the same 1:1 attention and focus that they’ve gotten from centre-based sessions. Telepractice has also made it easier for us to integrate our learning journey at home and go beyond just a weekly 45-minutes session,” shared Mr Cockett.
Another caregiver, Mdm Nur Fadhilah Binte Abdullah also expressed her appreciation to the CTP team for providing the telepractice services. “I am glad that my son, Faidhi, is able to continue with his therapy sessions at home via the Microsoft Teams application. Thank you, SPD,” said Mdm Fadhilah.
The team is exploring telepractice as an integral part of the CTP programme beyond the Circuit Breaker.