A Family’s Experience with Telehealth Physical Therapy

AnneMarie, our manager of community relations and events at Easterseals Crossroads, and her daughter Ali are currently utilizing telehealth appointments for pediatric physical therapy sessions.

Read on to learn about their experiences relating to physical therapy, telehealth appointments during COVID-19, family involvement, goals and future plans.

You and your daughter Ali have used Easterseals Crossroads services for a while now; can you explain what brought you to the agency and what you hope to accomplish as far as goals/outcomes?

At Ali’s 5-year well child check-up, our pediatrician recommended that we see a physical therapist so Ali could be evaluated for toe walking after noticing how tight her calf muscles were. Upon noticing Ali’s calves, our doctor asked me if she was a big runner. Eh. Not exactly. Aware that there could be a concern of toe walking, I shared that we frequently remind her to put her heels down. 

Upon evaluation, Ali was recommended for physical therapy services which she has been receiving weekly since October 2019. Now, going into June 2020, we are moving to every other week appointments to help prepare her for discharge. Our goals for Ali include overall strengthening so her body is better supported while standing with her heels down and regularly walking with a heel-strike first. We hope that she is able to achieve these goals to go off to kindergarten in the fall with the strength and confidence she needs to play and stay engaged with new friends and teachers.

You have the unique perspective of being an employee and a consumer; can you explain how that guided your decision to bring Ali here?

It made it really easy! Our staff is amazing – talented, dedicated, kind, caring and professional. Also, Ali already loved “mommy’s work” – especially the play space on the 2nd floor and the outdoor playground. What was most telling to me though, was realizing that by working here I know the ins and outs of the organization and I couldn’t think of sending my child anywhere else. I am so thankful for the team with whom I have worked with as not only a parent, but as a colleague.

What do you feel makes our agency uniquely suited to your family’s needs?

Making therapy feel like play is important to us and Easterseals Crossroads delivers that for our family – so much so that Ali’s older sister wants to be a part of Ali’s therapy. too! 

What does Ali do during a traditional in-facility appointment? What are your take-aways from those appointments (i.e., do you have “homework” or things to do at home to prepare for the next appointment)?

When we arrive, Amy, Ali’s physical therapist, greets her with a warm smile and asks if she’s ready to play. They create obstacle courses, play games and work on special balance exercises. 

Do you feel as though Ali is progressing toward her goals?

Ali has been progressing steadily since she started therapy. She has gotten so much stronger and gained more confidence in herself and her abilities. We are so proud of her and thankful for the direction.

Since Covid-19 pandemic, many things have changed. When you first learned you might not have traditional therapy appointments, what were your thoughts? Were you concerned about loss of skills or lack of progress?

My original thoughts were, I don’t know how we’re going to do this exactly, but let’s give it a try. My main concern was that she could regress, and I am so happy to say that not only did we avoid regression, we have definitely seen progression!

At this point, your family has participated in telehealth appointments. How has that been? What does a telehealth appointment look like?

There is definitely more set up on my end these days, but it’s worth it. Seeing how we can use different things around the house to aid Ali in this journey has been so fun. She’s done everything from playing hopscotch and building her own obstacle courses outside to rolling up hand towels to create a balance beam!

Does Ali enjoy this type of appointment? 

Yes! I know that she misses the pediatric gym at Easterseals Crossroads and her in-person time with Amy, but she is definitely still enjoying her sessions – albeit virtual – with Amy. 

Do you feel that telehealth can continue to be a valuable alternative? Do you see it as a complementary option – if and when we return to traditional appointments?

Yes, I definitely see telehealth as a valuable alternative solution. We will likely continue with telehealth sessions for the remainder of the summer since they’ve worked so well for us.

What are some tips/suggestions to parents/caregivers about how to make telehealth appointments meaningful?

Block your schedule ahead of time to get the “equipment” pulled together! Then, once you’re all set up, talk about the session to help get them ready just like you would an in-person session. Also, if you can, use the same area in the house for each indoor session, so the child has a sense that this is where I do therapy sessions and I know what is expected of me.

Any funny stories about inviting a therapist into your home in this manner?

Henry, our dog, makes many appearances in Ali’s therapy sessions now. She has also had a chance to meet Amy’s dogs as well because of this experience.

What is the very best thing to note about Easterseals Crossroads as far as it has made your family feel valued, respected and “heard?”

I know that the staff at Easterseals Crossroads care about my child and her future. And it’s not because I work there. It is because they genuinely care about all of the children and adults they see and I get see if first-hand as a parent.

What would you tell a new-to-therapy parent about Easterseals Crossroads?

The therapists use tons of games, equipment and sensory tools throughout the therapy sessions. It will amaze you how much therapy can look and feel like play. With consistency and dedication, you will be amazed by the growth and development that your child will experience through their therapy sessions at Easterseals Crossroads. 

Any comments you want to add?

Once my suspicions were confirmed and we learned that Ali would benefit from therapy services, I knew we were going to be fine. I was able to come to this conclusion with ease because I knew that Easterseals Crossroads would be there for us. 

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