Question: How has COVID impacted your treatment plan? What successful treatment options have you found in therapy?
- Leah Gross:
We are definitely finding that more children are struggling with emotional regulation (specifically anxiety) post COVID. There are two ways in which occupational therapy can help these children. Our bodies have certain unintegrated reflexes. The morrow is a startle reflex in infant babies that is directly linked to anxiety. Ideally a baby’s morrow is supposed to be integrated. If it’s not, OT can assist a child in integrating this morrow reflex, thus reducing the child’s anxiety. Another way in which OT helps with emotional regulation is through sensory regulation. Following COVID, we are finding heightened anxiety in children who prior to COVID had difficulty with sensory processing and taking in information from their surroundings. The environment was very different during COVID and kids experienced a lot of changes. Kids didn’t have social engagement, and coming back into a social setting was very scary for children with sensory processing difficulties.
Our sensory processing program at The Therapy Place has been extremely successful and kids have made great improvements. In addition, during COVID, kids were out of school for an extended period of time and therefore some of their abilities, such as fine motor skills, gross motor skills, social skills, etc.,.were set back- But when they re-entered the classroom post COVID, the demands of the classroom remained the same, so it became hard for some kids to keep up. The Therapy Place has helped children catch up on learning necessary skills. For example, many kids who were in kindergarten, primary, and first grade during COVID now need extra assistance with handwriting and developing hand muscle skills.
- Esti Schiff:
For a long time we had to be extremely careful with students touching the same materials for fear of spreading COVID. We needed to follow protocols such as washing/disinfecting items between students. This became both time consuming and difficult since we used picture cards and worksheets that had to be laminated in order to be able to spray disinfectant. Certain goals on treatment plans became harder to address as materials for those goals were more difficult to prepare. It was then that I realized that I could turn almost all of my materials into PowerPoint presentations that could easily be displayed on an iPad. It was fairly simple to disinfect the iPad between students and it proved to be such an essential tool during the COVID era.
Materials needed to address goals such as identifying problems, identifying items by function, encoding actions in pictures, and even sequencing, were quickly converted into PowerPoint activities (many times by first creating an activity on an app and then cutting and pasting into a PowerPoint activity) that could be easily pulled up during sessions. I also found that there were great apps for following directions that I started to use. There were many free resources available on Boom Cards that could be pulled up on the iPad during the sessions as well. I think the biggest way that COVID impacted my treatment plan was that it broadened my view of how I could present my materials and really allowed me to maximize how much I could accomplish on an iPad!
- Chani Kaplinsky:
When COVID hit, sessions moved to Zoom. I quickly picked up on how simple it was, technically speaking, to use. Treating clients over Zoom, however, was another story! Leah was in touch with us very often. She would send us links, handouts, and other ideas for treatment that could work given the new circumstances. There were some clients that did well with remote sessions, like the 8-9 year olds and older children. Younger and more active clients struggled heavily during COVID and would have benefited from being seen in our gyms. Thankfully, we’ve moved on since then and are back to in- person treatment in our beautiful gyms. One thing that I did gain from COVID is that I am now able to treat clients on snow days (or for any other reason a child can’t make it). Parents now have the option to reach out to us for Zoom sessions if needed. Kids are happy to miss school but don’t want to miss OT!
Leah Gross, OTR/L, founded The Therapy Place for OT and Speech Therapy in 2012. The Therapy Place has three private practice clinics throughout NJ, all medically approved. In 2020 Leah also founded CircleCare, a therapy clinic for ABA therapy.
Esti Schiff, MS, CCC-SLP, has recently joined the team at The Therapy Place as Director of the Speech and Language department.
Chani Kaplinsky has been working as an occupational therapist at The Therapy Place for the past 4 years.