A few weeks into teletherapy, is there more pain than pleasure? We talk to Eileen Chew
Kumar: What’s the biggest challenge?
Eileen: Getting kids to work with parents and caregivers at home. Home is their comfort zone. It’s a place for them to chill and relax after a demanding day at school or at therapy. They may not perform or want to perform at home. Overcoming this is the first challenge. The relationship between the therapist and the child is very different from the relationship between the parent and the child. It can be quite challenging for parents. Confusing for the kids as well, having to switch between the two roles.
Kumar: Those who are managing to do get a hang of this — what are they doing right?
Eileen Chew: Practice, practice, practice! We are supporting them through the session. Also giving them in the moment feedback. They are guided on what to say and when to say them, when to praise and when to reinforce, when to encourage etc. After a while, it becomes second nature;)
Kumar: How are they faring?
Eileen Chew: Fantastic! With practice and lots of encouragement, they build confidence. Especially when the kids start to respond positively. They are less anxious, and the kids feel it too. It is really heart-warming to watch!
Kumar: Parents need a pat on the back too right?
Eileen Chew: Absolutely! I am so very proud of all of our parents for their efforts. I think a lot of them started out not knowing how or what to do. It’s a steep learning curve. There is a certain amount of vulnerability with putting themselves out there and doing this under our watchful eyes. Naturally, they are unsure and anxieties run high. We know that this is not easy for them! But they kept on trying, working through tantrums and other behaviors. They didn’t give up. We cheered for them and encouraged them. It’s been hard work, but the kids have responded. I think that’s the biggest encouragement, the biggest pat on the back.
Kumar: You said its tougher for therapists too?
Eileen: Definitely. For a start, the prep time is extensive. It takes on average 2-3 hours to prep slides for each session. Secondly, the therapists are also in a unique position where they have to give feedback to the parents on their instructions and interactions with the kids. This is something they never had to do before and hence a learning experience for them as well. On one hand, we want to make sure that we are doing things right and they are doing things right. On the other hand, remembering that they are parents and not therapists. So we can’t expect things to be perfect and we have to remember that we are all doing our best! I think this is a somewhat delicate situation. We always want to be mindful of how we say things and present our feedback to parents. I think this can awkward for our therapists at times. It’s fine if it we are praising them and if everything is going well. But teaching from scratch often requires error correction. This is when it becomes tricky.
Kumar: Gimme 3 tips for parents
Eileen: Hang In there – We are in this together. Have fun with the sessions. Remember, you are awesome!