Using proper materials in telehealth (or telepractice) can make a significant difference in the gains made by patients of an occupational therapist (OT).
An occupational therapist plays a significant role in the lives of children and adults who need help with everyday tasks. Whether working in schools or in a private practice, OTs have the opportunity to take their services online with a telehealth practice.
One of the biggest things that holds many OTs back from starting to offer more telehealth is that they feel like they have to start over with what materials they use for lessons, as well as start from knowing nothing about licensing and compliance and other details specific to teletherapy.
Many therapists who are looking to incorporate teletherapy into their normal practice decide to get certified in telepractice in order to ensure they know all the fundamentals. This also allows them to communicate to parents and other professionals alike that they take teletherapy seriously and are qualified to practice it.
This article will provide a brief overview of what teletherapy is and introduce some helpful guidance to materials that can be used for teletherapy. Materials is just one of the 10 modules in a telepractice certification.
What is Telehealth, Telepractice or Teletherapy?
Telehealth (according to AOTA) is very similar to what you would do traditionally as an OT, the biggest difference is that your sessions are conducted via video conferencing rather than face to face. However, even though offering in-person services and services via telehealth are similar it is important to realize that there are substantial differences in details that are necessary to understand to achieve the same level of results through teletherapy as with in-person services.
A Quick Note on Terminology
Telehealth is the preferred term according to AOTA. We use the terms telehealth, telepractice and teletherapy to all apply to either occupational therapists or speech-language pathologists despite AOTA preferring telehealth and ASHA preferring telepractice. In this article we will primarily refer to it as telehealth due to AOTA’s preference, but our certification is called telepractice due to the fact that some occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists work in the school systems and think of themselves more as educators than healthcare practitioners and telepractice can be for healthcare or education (telehealth is not). The certification is made specifically for (and designed in partnership with) occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists who exclusively use telepractice.
While there are many different HIPAA compliant platforms that can be used for conducting telehealth, this article will focus on a number of different types of materials that you can utilize to ensure your teletherapy is as effective as possible.
Important that Increase in Flexibility Does Not Mean a Drop-Off in Quality
Telehealth does offer a substantial increase in flexibility for both the therapist and the patient. Both you and your patients can show up for appointments remotely, whether that be from the comfort of your own homes or an office. Since telehealth has been proven to be just as effective as traditional methods, it’s a wonderful option to offer to busy parents with full schedules or to those who might have trouble commuting to and from appointments.
One thing that is important to note is that while a therapist can do therapy from their home, it is still important to maintain a professional appearance and setting that is devoid of distractions and allows the therapy to have the same privacy and focus that an in therapy session would. Parents will be paying the same or similar rates and will expect that to be reflected in both the service they receive as well as the results their children obtain.
Incorporating teletherapy into their business model is something that can offer a range of benefits to both OTs and their patients.
In the rest of this article, we will look at some of the materials that can be used to engage your patients with telehealth.
The Internet Offers New Ways to Engage Kids
OTs often worry that by offering a telehealth practice they won’t be able to engage as effectively with their younger patients who tend to have shorter attention spans and need more frequent stimulation to remain focused. While younger patients can be more of a challenge, there are resources targeted for all ages and development levels.
OTs that embrace this challenge can be at the forefront of connecting their patients with new ways to learn and interactive materials that will jumpstart their progress, regardless of their age.
There are a number of resources that are focused on older demographics for people who might have had strokes or other challenges, as well as a number of materials focused specifically on children.
Often children find the internet to be fascinating and with countless interactive games, quizzes, and programs there is something to suit each child’s specific needs so that they can learn in new, fun ways.
Teletherapy Materials Encourage Ongoing Learning
OTs might experience some hesitancy when deciding to start incorporating telehealth into their business. However, many children respond very well to this style of therapy because they are excited and motivated by using the Internet. While older patients may not be as accustomed to the internet or as excited by it, there are still a number of interactive options that can be helpful for patients.
Another great benefit is that teletherapy can utilize resources that the patient will have access to in her or his own home on a regular basis. This allows them to continue developing skills outside of their sessions rather than only being able to play certain games or participate in specific activities exclusively available in their OT’s office.
The internet has become an invaluable learning resource for children and adults when they are taught how to use it correctly. As an OT you can help your patients explore their options when it comes to the plethora of learning materials and assist them in identifying the ones that fit their needs, interests, and learning styles best.
Teletherapy Makes Learning Simple
Many OTs are turning to a virtual practice because all that is needed to have a successful therapy session is stable internet connection, a computer, webcam, and a quiet, comfortable space both for the OT and the patient.
Parents or caregivers can also become more active in the patient’s progress because telehealth allows them to oversee the patient’s sessions and interact with them during certain online activities. This empowers parents to feel at ease applying strategies that the OT is teaching the patient.
Types of Materials for Teletherapy
- Shape and Object Identification Games
- Letter and number tracing
- Pattern recognition activities
- Counting or sorting activities with various online resources
- Bingo activities with numbers, letters and shapes
- Create your own materials
- Writing activities such as Roll-a-Story
- Visual motor activities such as Follow the Path
- Digital puzzles
Conclusions: Plethora of Materials Available for Telehealth
There’s a wide variety of materials available to be able to ensure that therapy sessions have plenty of variety. There are a number of materials and activities that are simple enough to be done with supervision and guidance, as well as digital materials that can help to engage patients with materials at all different levels to fit the patient’s needs.
Telehealth has plenty to offer both practitioners as well as patients, it just takes some adjustment to a new medium. Telepractice certification is made specifically to help occupational therapists help make that transition to effective online therapy across ten different areas that are important for mastery of telehealth, with materials only being one section.
Need somewhere to store all your OT materials? You can use Google Drive to organize all of your materials and resources for future use.
Materials for Teletherapy: Time to Get Started
Bringing learning online and working with your young patients through engaging, interactive activities is proving to be a powerful way for them to develop their speech and language skills. The materials offered for OTs to incorporate into their sessions are extensive and little to no cost. Whether you choose your favorites from our list or create your own materials, your patients are sure to enjoy this stimulating way of learning.
To learn more about the other aspects of teletherapy and ensure that each time you have a first-time teletherapy session with a new or existing client that you and your patient are properly prepared, learn more about our comprehensive Board Certified Telepractice Specialist.
Learn More About Telepractice Certification