Adapting our services throughout lockdown

June 18 2021

Heather Holgate, one of our Occupational Therapists, shares with us her experience of providing therapy and support to children across Wales from her home in London.

Hello, my name’s Heather and I’m an Occupational Therapist and Bobath Tutor at Cerebral Palsy Cymru. I actually live in London and before the pandemic would visit the centre in Whitchurch about once a month to provide training to the therapy team, run courses and also treat children.

Since the pandemic, and as a result of the switch from face-to-face to virtual therapy sessions during lockdown, I have been able to increase my time working with Cerebral Palsy Cymru whilst working remotely from my home in London. It has been great to be able to work more consistently and regularly as part of the therapy team.

When the first lockdown happened, we had to learn a lot of new IT skills in a short space of time to ensure we could roll out our virtual services as quickly as possible, as well as learning to cope with the frustration of the WiFi dropping out at times.

Being based in my home (or to be more exact in my shed in the garden!) I didn’t have access to any of the specialist equipment we would normally have for a therapy session, and neither did our families. However, I did not let this stop me and as a result, I have become very creative using things from around my home to demonstrate, and consequently to suggest to our families to use, during the therapy sessions…pots and pans, lentils and pasta, socks and towels, as well as some toys!

Although there have been challenges for all of us who are working remotely from home in adapting to this new way of working, there have also been numerous advantages for us of adapting our services to be able to offer them virtually. The sessions take place in the child’s own home, so they are often keen to show us their toys and what their house looks like. This can help us as a therapy team be realistic in our suggestions as to what parents can do to continue helping their child make progress at home, in between their therapy sessions, and understand better what the challenges are in their home environment, as well as the opportunities. I have even done some cooking with one child in their own kitchen as part of their therapy sessions!

Virtual therapy sessions also mean that we can invite a greater number of health and education professionals involved in the care of the child to join our sessions without the additional number of people in one room being too exciting or overwhelming for the child. We also don’t need to wear PPE during a virtual session which makes communicating with a child easier as they can see our facial expressions.

As restrictions have eased, it has been great as a therapist to get back to being able to offer face-to-face therapy sessions to families on a case-by-case basis. The service we offer now, and will do for the foreseeable future, is a hybrid mix of virtual and face-to-face sessions as there are advantages to both methods of services.

The most important thing though is that we can continue to provide our vital therapy and support service and improve the quality of life of children living with cerebral palsy.

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