It wasn’t the first time 2-year-old Emily had surprised mum and dad, but this surprise was priceless.
As they set up for their first online early intervention therapy session, mum Allison watched as Emily turned towards the computer screen in response to her therapist Tracey’s greeting.
“Hello, Emily,” Tracey said.
Emily, for the first time, waved back.
“Watching Emily’s face light up when she saw, and then waved ‘hello’ to Tracey, was absolutely priceless,” said Allison.
Emily was born with severe to profound bilateral hearing loss and, as a result, is a bilateral cochlear implant recipient. Her cochlear implants give her access to sound. Emily also lives with additional challenges so Allison, and dad Simon were unsure how telepractice, that is therapy delivered remotely, would suit their little girl.
But the COVID-19 health crisis made it necessary for the in-person therapy Emily usually receives from the RIDBC Floraville office in Northern NSW to be delivered online.
RIDBC Senior Teacher Tracey has been providing early intervention therapy for Emily and her family for most of her life. A key goal Emily’s family had set was for Emily to wave hello.
“Having such a positive outcome from the start was a great result. She is a busy little girl, she’s just amazing and probably teaches me more than I am teaching her,” Tracey said.
Emily’s parents had reservations about having online therapy and weren’t sure it would suit Emily, “Both Simon and I were hesitant at having to use teleconference technology for our sessions with Tracey, rather than face-to-face sessions,” Allison said.
“But we are so glad we gave this a go, and so pleased with the results. I would encourage other families who have the hesitation we did, to give it a go.”
Emily’s success spurred the family on to continue making therapy part of their everyday lives, just as they always have. Increasing Emily’s recognition with videoconferencing technology has also seen her connect with her grandparents too.
Tracey says there are additional benefits to online therapy.
“It allows a level of flexibility that in-person services don’t. Children are generally more comfortable in their home environment, which is nice because I can observe them more, watching the interaction between the parents and child. I can offer positive feedback which gives them the confidence to continue achieving goals throughout the week.”
Sometimes special guests pop up in the session too.
Tracey has seen the head of Emily’s big brother Jack appear on the screen, curiously checking in on Emily’s session. The involvement of family in therapy sessions is beneficial. Siblings like Jack can witness a session which wouldn’t always be possible.
And according to Tracey, Allison has played a crucial role in transitioning to online therapy sessions.
“Mum [Allison] has been excellent in ensuring readiness for sessions, setting up the home environment and most importantly working with Emily every day. She has been amazing.”
A remote service delivery using telepractice has proven effective for Emily and her family. “If circumstances don’t allow for an in-person session, we can organise an online session and Emily continues to achieve the best possible outcomes.”
Emily and her family receive early intervention services from RIDBC. To learn more about early intervention and how we build a team around the child, visit the early intervention page on the RIDBC website.