By Kristina Schroeder, Physical Therapist
As a pediatric physical therapist for almost 19 years, I thought I had worked in all settings possible: hospitals, outpatient clinics, schools, and homes. I have had the privilege to work with children and their families in all those settings and felt like I could handle anything that came my way. However, on March 17, 2020, we were given the orders that due to COVID-19, all of our face-to-face visits with children and families through early intervention were to stop until further notice. Although we had been in discussion for a couple of weeks about how to keep ourselves and the families we serve safe, I don’t think any of us knew or expected the closure to happen so quickly, or remain in effect for as long as it has.
As a physical therapist working with infants and young toddlers in their homes, I felt sad for the families I work with as their services were put on hold so abruptly. I have enjoyed not only helping children, but also their parents and caregivers through the joys and challenges of helping children grow and develop in their first years. So, while most of the amazing families I work with understood, they were also concerned for their children and their development during these critical stages of their lives. Luckily, our amazing team of early intervention therapists and supervisors worked quickly to make changes to our service delivery. Within a week of being told our services were to be put on hold until further notice, we were informed that we were going to be able to provide services via tele-intervention.
With the excitement of these changes also came some reservations on how I as a physical therapist could still perform my job when I wasn’t able to see the children and their families in person. I had never done anything like this before, and I was nervous about being able to continue to provide quality services. However, as with any change that pushes you outside your comfort zone, there is room for growth. So, after 19 years as a pediatric physical therapist, I am here to say that providing tele-intervention services has helped me grow in my role. Most importantly, providing tele-intervention PT services has allowed me to truly coach the families I work with and provide them with feedback and, ultimately, confidence to help their children.
I have had many families report that they have seen positives in being at home more and giving their children the time and space to grow and develop. Parents are finding innovative and exciting ways to implement strategies and suggestions provided by the therapist that they haven’t has as much time to do before. Overall, the experience of providing tele-intervention services to our families and children has been very positive and successful. Most importantly, I have felt I have been able to provide families with the support they need during these challenging times so that they can continue to help their children grow and develop. If you are interested in Early Intervention services, please call 717-735-1547 for a free eligibility evaluation for your child (ages birth to three years old) in Lancaster County.