FOCUS Therapy in Fort Myers was one of the first providers of teletherapy services for children in Southwest Florida, beginning with speech therapy and later expanding during the pandemic to occupational therapy, ABA therapy and physical therapy. We continue to offer teletherapy for our speech therapy and occupational therapy clients.
Teletherapy is the delivery of a wide range of therapy services using telecommunications technology to connect therapists to clients. Our speech, occupational, physical and ABA therapies are essential for children with special needs and developmental delays. Teletherapy is one more way we can be sure to reach them where they are.
Teletherapy has allowed our team to stay connected and keep our clients learning and engaged during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we launched a teletherapy department even prior to that because the method has significant benefits aside from allowing for social distancing.
For instance, a child with cold symptoms or a low-grade fever might not be able to attend an in-clinic therapy session, but they can still participate in teletherapy. It reduces the number of missed appointments.
Teletherapy also helps reduce time and travel burdens for parents, something that's especially helpful for our clients who live in more remote areas. The benefits of this particular aspect were outlined in a 2015 study published in the International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology.
We can deliver our high-quality therapy services to kids all across the State of Florida. Although we don't offer in-home speech therapy or occupational therapy, teletherapy allows us to meet kids and families where they are. This may be especially important for kids living in more rural areas or families who aren't happy with their local options.
Finally, teletherapy has proven extremely effective in terms of parent carryover of skills because parents have opportunities to be present, observe and even assist.
What is Teletherapy, Exactly?
Teletherapy is sometimes referred to as online therapy, virtual therapy or telehealth. The goal is to meet patients' needs by meeting them where they are.
The same diagnoses and conditions that can be treated in our clinic can be treated effectively via teletherapy. It's not the therapy that's different; it's the mode of delivery. Teletherapy is an evidence-based and supported means of delivering speech therapy and occupational therapy, and we've found it to be not only extremely effective, but convenient for our patients.
Services are administered using any electronic communication device (iPad, smartphone, laptop, etc.). The process is similar to a FaceTime call, except it's through a secure, HIPAA-compliant app. Parents type in a meeting code, the therapist appears on screen and the session starts.
Just as we do during in-clinic sessions, our therapists utilize games, exercises and other activities to target each child's therapy goals.
Although it's true screen time is typically frowned upon for young children, teletherapy is different. Most online games deprive kids of key social interaction. In teletherapy, the whole point is engaging them. In fact, FOCUS facilitates virtual group treatment so kids can work on their social skills together - even from a distance.
Telehealth itself is not new. It has been practiced for several years by doctors, nurses and therapists in other fields. However, it was just beginning to gain traction in the field of pediatric therapy when COVID-19 began sweeping the U.S. By that point, FOCUS Therapy had been offering the service to clients in Lee County for 18 months. This allowed our team to hit the ground running and continue providing these important therapies when in-clinic sessions were forced to come to halt.
"We know how vital therapy services are for these children," said FOCUS Founder Jennfer Voltz-Ronco, MC/CCC-SLP. "We have a responsibility to ensure kids across Florida continue to receive it however is most effective and workable for their lives and schedules."