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ST. CHARLES – When the COVID-19 outbreak forced business across the state to close to the public, Brooke Backsen, occupational therapist and owner of My Recess Therapy, a pediatric occupational, speech and physical therapy clinic in St. Charles, knew she had to think of ways to keep her clients and their families engaged.
So she and her team of occupational therapists, physical therapists and speech therapists quickly adapted their practice to bring virtual sessions to all of their clients.
"We thought 'what are these families going to do without being in contact with their therapists?' because this will really impact their daily lives and structure," Backsen said. "My goal was to be as proactive as possible to be able to support families in some way, no matter what we had to do with the clinic."
Backsen and her team use an online platform to virtually visit the child and families in their own home. The therapists are able to work with children and parents using tools that are present in the home, as well as suggest activities to the parents. She said that the virtual sessions have been very flexible, and all the families need to participate is a webcam on a phone or tablet.
"We're being as creative as possible with each family for what each child needs," she explained. "If a child is working on attention while doing e-learning, we can provide sensory activities prior to sitting down, things like brain-body activities to get their brains and bodies connected and getting their 'wiggles' out prior to sitting down at the computer. Our physical therapists are focused on home exercise programs, so they can give directions and model the exercise while watching the child do it."
Another benefit of being inside the child's home through the virtual visits is being able to help parents in real-time, Backsen said.
"If a parent is having trouble with a bedtime routine or meal time, we can be there and help them through a challenging routine," she explained. "It's not a traditional session, but it's a unique opportunity to help parents use what they have in their homes to accomplish therapy goals."
Kellie Marie Christiansen, a pediatric occupational therapist at My Recess, said she and her clients are enjoying the online sessions. She said one of the best parts of these visits is how she can work with parents and empower them to help their children.
"I'm instructing the parents on how to do hands-on activities that I'd do in the moment," she explained. "If the child is in the middle of a meltdown, I can help parents better handle it and empower them in a time of crisis. Previously, a parent would call me and tell me about it, but now it's in the moment, and I can tell them what to do and what to try."
The children love the virtual visits, Christiansen said, because they're able to show off their toys and bedrooms to their therapists.
"The kids think it's so cool because they can do things in their own home and in their own environment," she said. "I'm so proud of [the families] for stepping up to the plate. Parents tell us [the sessions] give them a sense of normalcy during this time, and they like that they're keeping the progress going."