by Alison Villalobos, Part 2

We began sharing Ali’s reflections last week. In Part 1 she told about the unexpected blessing of being able to peek in on a home-school session. She was then able to problem solve some major challenges her student had been facing in the classroom. She had not been able to solve these problems when only seeing him in the clinic setting. Today we share her reflections on how telehealth has opened up new opportunities to serve the entire family unit and not just the child….

One day I signed onto a telehealth session for a student who was new to my caseload, Jack*, a 5 year old on the autism spectrum. He quickly lost interest in my unfamiliar, disembodied face on the screen. Since his parents were sitting in on a school-based OT session for the first time, we started with a basic description of what OT is. Since we were in the middle of a global crisis, I asked questions to simply check on their basic needs:
How was their family coping with this huge change in routine?
What challenges were they having with homeschooling so far?

They told me that Jack is typically easy-going, but that the hardest part of quarantine for their son was coping with the arguing and stress among the rest of the family. Jack was getting very dysregulated when anyone the family expressed sadness, frustration, or any sort of upset. He’d been grabbing and squeezing people as a reflexive coping tool. This would then further upset the other family members.

Instead of trying to do a typical school based therapy session, I started to talk to his parents about concepts from the Zones of Regulation. This easy-to-understand tool excited Jack’s parents and they began brainstorming together about how to use the ideas to help themselves, Jack, and their other kids.

The best way to help Jack was to help his whole family cope with the stress and anxiety of this strange time. As their family unit gained regulation, they had more capacity to help Jack learn and grow. The things they are learning to apply now will enrich their ability to help Jack when he returns to the classroom.

This unique opportunity to get to know the families of our school-based students, to problem solve with them, build their trust, and understand their relational dynamics, will serve the whole IEP team, and the students’ abilities to meet their goals, long after we return to the classroom.