Tag Archives: IEP

Navigating Teletherapy

by Adrienne Krysiuk MS, OTR/L

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My first day of work and I was super excited to see my kiddos since it has been a few weeks since I saw them last. I was also super nervous and anxious about doing teletherapy. I kept asking the questions, how was I going to manage a caseload of 17 plus kids and manage my own five year old? Most importantly, I could not understand how I was going to effectively provide occupational therapy intervention with preschoolers who have Autism Spectrum Disorder through a little screen. As the 2019-2020 school year already had its own set of challenges, not one of us could figure out how to do this type of hands off interaction with our Easterseals kids through this platform. As we reflected, the slew of emails arrived and we really started to panic. We all started going to online trainings, reading blogs and asking questions, conducted team meetings and practice runs with our colleagues. We all became computer experts in zoom and GoTo Meeting, we connected with colleagues and families throughout the day, sitting for longer than any of us are used to and then we became the minority of people who are still part of the workforce.

Since practicing teleintervention for a few weeks now, I am still trying to manage a hectic schedule between work and family. My son at this moment is trying to lay low because he knows he is getting away with watching way too much TV and no one has been after him to do his school work for awhile. The overall challenge of teletherapy has been a good learning experience and now familiar. In fact, at this point in time, I am a proponent of teleintervention and I feel this could be offered as part of the IEP plan. Of course I would rather be working directly with my kids and coworkers, but we (the school team) have always discussed how beneficial it would be to have a better way to follow up at home. When you are working on certain skills, such as managing challenging behaviors or carrying over potty training, it would be very helpful to coach the parent more directly in the child’s home environment; to really bridge the gap between home and school and further support our kiddos success. This unfortunate pandemic event has been that opportunity, possibly causing positive change and providing more options and choices for our families.

It has been an adjustment period for the parents to say the least and I give a shout out to all of our special needs parents out there, we see you and you are doing a great job, so hang in there, we got your back. Again, looking on the bright side through this unique time, I also find myself appreciating the small things that help me get through the day, one benefit I enjoy, I know many people share this with me, is illustrated in the picture. I cannot complain about the reduction of my now nonexistent commute, being able to get ready for work in 15 minutes or even caring if my comfy uniform matches or represents the correct season; dressed in my Easterseals teletherapy uniform.

 

AT in OZ Introduction to Northcott

by Sandy Masayko

This is the third post in a series from Australia

Let’s see what you can do. That’s the positive motto of Northcott, a comprehensive provider of services to over 13,000 people with disabilities in New South Wales. Today (February 13) I received an orientation to the agency and its many programs, and a tour of the facilities in Parramatta, a suburb of Sydney. I detected a theme of empowerment for people with disabilities: control of funding, acknowledgement of the importance of relationships, and recognition of technology as a part of empowerment.

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Throughout the day, the changing system of funding for services in Australia, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, permeated discussions. Staff members are not sure what will be the effect of this program, which gives consumers and their families control of funding to select their services and support. Agencies are competing to attract consumers. It’s a new program and there are many questions about how funding will be provided for some services.

Northcott is involved in research and projects that recognize that people with disabilities need to have agency. My morning activities included attending the book launch of Relationships and Recognition: Photos About Working Together. People with cognitive disability and their chosen support workers (paid caregivers) participated in the creation of this book that celebrates development of respectful, trusting, effective partnerships. After a brief presentation by researchers on how support relationships are addressed within policy, participants discussed positive and negative influences on relationships that promote people living in their communities. It was quite thought provoking to hear perspectives of representatives of Australian governmental, educational and social service agencies. We concluded by sharing lunch.

In the afternoon I met with Kathy Prasad, an OT who manages the AT program at Northcott. The AT program serves many people with complex needs by providing evaluation and training mostly within the client’s home or community setting. Some services are delivered remotely by video conferencing with clients and their local therapists. In Australia, unlike the US, schools are not required to provide AT as part of the IEP process. But many schools contract with Northcott to carry out evaluations and training. Kathy and I discussed issues of evolving roles and expectations of AT for people with disabilities and challenges of funding equipment and services. There seem to be many similarities with issues we face in the US.

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Kathy Prasad & Sandy in AT at Northcott

My final activity of the day was a meeting with Alicia Melita, Sexuality and Relationships Coordinator, who directs a unique educational program to promote social relationships, dating and interaction among young adults with disabilities. Services for adults in the US do not typically address issues around intimacy, and I found this frank recognition of this human need to be refreshing.

I am fortunate that my visit to Northcott coincides with another Easter Seals study tour participant, Cristen Reat. Cristen is from Houston Easter Seals and founder of Bridging Apps. Exchanging perspectives with her adds more depth to my experience.

Day two, February 14, was a focus on Assistive Technology. Speech Pathologist Alana Bain, an AT Specialist at Northcott, drove Cristen and me to a suburb to the south of Parramatta in a car packed with examples of AT. Alana presented a four hour interactive workshop on augmentative communication to “speechies” who practice in hospitals and rehab centers. The audience appeared quite engaged and curious about how to bring AT into acute care settings. Alana’s presentation was quite similar to our presentations on the subject at Easterseals of SEPA

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Alana Bain presenting on AT to hospital based Speech Pathologists.

The study tour so far has been quite stimulating and enjoyable. The staff at Northcott is professional, motivated, empathetic and knowledgeable. I am really fortunate to have this experience.

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Cristen Reat (Easterseals Houston), Alana Bain (Northcott) & Sandy Masayko

Read part one of the series here.

Read part two of the series here.