Claire Salter Parry doing therapy online

Myth #1: Online therapy won’t work because kids won’t sit in front of screens

In the coming weeks, we’ll be breaking down myths around online therapy.

We sometimes hear that online therapy won’t work, because children won’t sit in front of screens for the session length. Sometimes parents say that their child won’t behave the way parents are seeing while in session. This same scenario can also occur in a face to face clinic environment. 

This expectation is especially common with children who are very young, or have conditions like ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) or autism. 

But here’s the thing.

It’s possible to do online therapy and never put the child in front of a screen

At Umbo, we’ve performed online therapy with children who are as young as 10 months old. We’ve also worked with many children who have autism, severe developmental delays or behavioural concerns. This is because we use a coaching model of therapy. We empower the family to set goals and then work towards them with the assistance of a therapist. That’s because families are really the experts of their children and with them 24/7, and therapists are there to assist.

In this sense, at Umbo, we don’t conduct therapy with the child. We conduct therapy with the family, working together as a team.

The beauty of this model is that it often involves less therapy time with the clinician, since the real magic happens in between sessions.

A therapy session can be a bit artificial sometimes, particularly if the child is not in the home. That’s why we teach the necessary skills in a therapy session. Together, the therapist and family can plan how they will practice and implement these strategies in-between sessions.

How can we do therapy without a child in front of a screen?

Of course the therapist never seeing your child would be a bit strange so there are different ways that can enable a therapist to observe your child. One way is to provide videos of your child to the therapist to show them your child in particular situations. Another is to have therapy sessions with your screen set up in such a way that for example, you might be sitting on the floor with your child doing an activity with the therapist watching online and providing feedback. 

How the coaching model works in practice

Isaac is 9 years old and has both autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). He lives on a rural property. The nearest Occupational Therapist (OT) is 4 hours away. In his National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) plan, Isaac has a goal to be able to reduce the frequency and severity of his meltdowns. 

An OT from Umbo meets Isaac and his family via Zoom for their first session. After 5 minutes, Isaac decides that he doesn’t want to talk to the therapist and runs off to play with his model trains. Isaac’s parents continue the call with the Umbo therapist, describing the behaviour they see, and what triggers it. Together, they begin to set goals for Isaac’s progress.

Over the next few months, the therapist corresponds with the family via email, and occasionally through videoconferencing. They also send videos of Isaac in between sessions.

Over time, Isaac improves to the point where therapy with Umbo is no longer needed.

Even if a child cannot sit in front of a screen, this should never be a barrier to receiving occupational or speech therapy by a qualified therapist.

If you are keen to try online therapy and see how it might work for your family member, please book in for a free consultation via our website here.