July 16, 2020
by: Emily Hastings
Virtual Physical Therapy: Assess, Educate, Coach, Repeat
Mohammed is an 8-year-old boy who has participated with his mom, Lina, in LeafBridge virtual physical therapy (PT) sessions since March 2020 when the agency temporarily suspended in-person visits. Lina was concerned that Mohammed would lose skills and that his muscles would get tighter without weekly PT sessions in the clinic at UCP. She also wanted Mohammed to initiate more activities, for him to sit up taller and help with transferring himself from one place to another.
Mohammed has numerous therapy tools and adapted equipment at home that help achieve his mom’s goals. LeafBridge PT staff had to assess Mohammed with those home tools and educate Lina on their use. Throughout the weeks that followed, Mohammed’s PT team acted as coach, teacher and analyst, while his mom acted as the therapists’ hands.
Mohammed loves technology, music and his mom! With this knowledge, his therapy team focused on how to improve Mohammed’s posture while using his iPad. Lina learned several seating modifications and techniques to encourage Mohammed to sit taller while playing. She was asked to try several different positions each session, requiring transferring Mohammed in and out of equipment and retrieving different pieces of equipment. She often recruited Mohammed’s brother and sister to man the camera or fetch equipment. Through all of this, Lina persisted with grace in learning all the ways that she could provide Mohammed with therapeutic positioning, mobility and sensory integration at home. Mohammed can now sit upright several minutes at a time before collapsing!
Although Mohammed cannot walk, he is still quite mobile with and without the use of specialized adapted equipment. PT staff assessed and educated his mom on the use of his adapted equipment to provide the mobility and positioning opportunities for Mohammed at home since school and UCP were closed. Mohammed typically rolls and scoots to get what he wants at home. He now also uses a special stander on loan from his school to move around the home and gain all the benefits of supported standing. In addition to that, Mohammed has a gait trainer to practice walking, another stander to help improve his posture while standing, and a specialty lower orthotic “suit” that keeps his hips and knees aligned and allows him to stand for a full four minutes!
Lina’s commitment to work with Mohammed in over 18 virtual physical therapy sessions has made a significant difference in her understanding Mohammed’s sensory and physical needs, and his potential to improve in all areas. The parent education that occurs during each virtual physical therapy session is significantly more compared to that which occurs during clinic sessions. Parent education and follow-through is essential for making gains. Virtual PT was critical for Mohammed these last three months; without it, he would have had significant weakness due to immobility, more stress on his joints and negative structural changes in his spine and legs – all of which would lead to poor health outcomes. But, because Mohammed and his mom have been an amazing team to work with over video conference, Mohammed is thriving!