Science, Technology

Teletherapy for kids encourages family involvement

Speech-language pathologist Krizia Anna Castro, shown here with her son Mac, says teletherapy can be as effective as face-to-face sessions.
Speech-language pathologist Krizia Anna Castro, shown here with her son Mac, says teletherapy can be as effective as face-to-face sessions.

Thanks to technology, speech-language pathologist Krizia Anna Castro is still able to help children with special needs. Castro is offering teletherapy services since face-to-face sessions are not possible due to the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

Teletherapy refers to remote therapy, using technology so that the therapist and client can communicate. Castro said this usually involves video platforms such as Zoom, Cisco Webex, Microsoft Teams, Facebook Messenger, or FaceTime. Apart from convenience, teletherapy offers other advantages.

Therapy amid the ECQ

“It stresses the importance of family involvement and contribution. They need to understand that teletherapy is not going to be the same as a face-to-face session but is mostly parent coaching. Activities will be mostly facilitated by the parents, especially with younger children. Unlike with face-to-face sessions wherein they leave their children with us while they stay in the waiting area, this time they are required to be there. Parents are going to be our eyes and hands during the session. They have to learn the techniques, and how to manage their child’s behavior. Now parents have a better understanding of their children’s needs because they are much more involved,” Castro told Digital Life Asia.

Castro, known as Teacher Zia to students and colleagues, did not originally see herself becoming a speech-language pathologist. She said she wanted to work in the corporate setting. When she took the University of the Philippines College Admission Test (UPCAT), however, she chose UP Manila as it was the nearest location. The Manila campus offers mostly pre-med courses.

“I chose BS Speech Pathology because a speech and language pathologist came to my high school to discuss what the profession was about. I decided to pursue it if ever I pass the UPCAT. Then, as they say, the rest is history,” she said.

Castro is affiliated with Nurturing Early Skills Therapy Center, Inc. and hatch. With the implementation of the ECQ, however, Castro could no longer have face-to-face sessions with her clients. So she decided to offer teletherapy services. Practiced worldwide, teletherapy can be as effective as face-to-face sessions.

Castro also noted that teletherapy integrates activities into their daily lives since the clients do this at home.

“We get to see them in a natural setting and adjust goals as needed,” Castro said.

Kids with special needs

According to Castro, teaching children with special needs is quite challenging but rewarding.

“They all have their own pace, what works with another does not work for some. There is no recipe for teaching children with special needs. There are also bad days and good days. Sometimes, our session consists of just crying for an hour and not being able to do all the activities you have planned. In our line of work (speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and special education teachers), you really have to be flexible,” she said.

“At the end of the day, it’s a fulfilling job, when your kid starts to talk for the first time or when they start to look you in the eye or they sit down for the whole session without standing up. Those little victories we really celebrate with the family. I have this kid back when I was a younger therapist. He was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Although he was at the higher end of the spectrum, he really had difficulties with social interaction. I discharged him so he could join group sessions with another teacher. Currently, he is enrolled in Philippine Science High School. When he was accepted it was one of the greatest achievements in my career–to be a part of his growth.”

Adapting to the new normal

Of course, like anything new, it may take time for the general public to embrace teletherapy. Many parents still need convincing that it can be an effective alternative to face-to-face sessions.

“Before COVID-19, I had more than 40 kids in my caseload. Right now, I have only seven kids who are receiving teletherapy. The usual responses are financial concerns, internet concerns, and being uncomfortable with the idea of teletherapy. We try to tell them that it might be a long time before we could go back to face-to-face sessions,” Castro said.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumer behavior is changing and businesses are rapidly embracing digital transformation. From remote work, to online grocery delivery, to telehealth, to online fitness classes, Filipinos have embraced the digital lifestyle. This happened in a matter of weeks, when normally this shift would have taken years.

Will the pandemic prove to be a similar tipping point for teletherapy in the Philippines?

“I think so, just as more children started shifting to homeschooling, the same thing will happen in the therapy world. Most of my kids who are receiving teletherapy right now are saying that even when therapy centers open, they would like to continue with teletherapy. Many more no-print, digital resources are also coming out, so it is really making things easier for families and therapists who are doing teletherapy,” Castro said.

Our lives may have changed, but thanks to technology, we can adapt to the post-pandemic world.

(Editor’s note: Interested in availing of Teacher Zia’s teletherapy services? You may reach out to her via email.)