I know that with every baby, toddler, and childhood stage, there will be a challenge. I was prepared to deal with potential challenges, I just wasn’t anticipating a pandemic to coincide with dealing with them. Zoom fatigue is real. Just about everyone in the world is realizing this. But it is especially real for me, a mom who is using the platform for physical and speech therapy for my child.
We started therapy over Zoom.
Let’s start with physical therapy. My son still wasn’t walking by 18 months, and we were forced to find a physical therapist to help get Carson to walk. But we could only do it over Zoom, thanks to the pandemic. If that sounds like it’d be hard, let me assure you, you are correct. During the virtual evaluation I had to get my son to lie on his back and then his stomach, moving his feet and legs in certain positions, holding my cell phone at an angle where the therapist could see what I was doing and letting her know what I felt to try to rule things out, like hip rotation issues, from the get-go. Sounds easy to wrangle a toddler in positions like that, right?
Then the exercises started, over Zoom, once a week. My son had developed a certain way of getting around which had inadvertently strengthened his right side far more than his left. Exercises like holding his right leg down when he was on his knees forcing him to use his left leg to stand up were employed, as well as using snacks to get him to cruise more and eventually attempt walking without support from the coffee table to the couch, increasing the distance ever so slowly.
Climbing up and down the stairs and even up an ottoman chair we have supposedly helped to strengthen his abs, and then we would sit together on a rolled-up yoga mat – with both our legs off of one side as well as one leg on each side – while we read, which also helped to strengthen abs and his left side of the body. It was all this all the time, over Zoom with the therapist watching and outside of our scheduled therapy session, for about three months. By this time, I was kicking myself that I didn’t try to straighten out his crawling earlier, or that I didn’t encourage him to walk in any way. I had simply thought that when he was ready, he would walk. And now I was learning the hard way that he might have needed a little push in the right direction.
The real success? It wasn’t due to Zoom.
We started physical therapy over Zoom but finished in person. It looks like that’s how things will go with speech therapy. We started Zoom speech therapy once a month because we were first focusing on physical therapy, hopeful that maybe he’d say more words after learning to walk. He still said the most important word, “mama,” and animal sounds, but not much else. We continued doing therapy on Zoom because we were leery of going into an office. We also continued to do speech exercises at home and doing our best to motivate him to say words. But it became clear my son could not be forced to interact with the therapist on Zoom.
We made the decision to start seeing our therapist in person once a week. We wanted him to interact with someone in person, not over a Zoom screen. And that’s been the most difficult with this experience. These types of therapies seem to be most effective when done in person. Sure, I helped with exercises around our house during and after Zoom physical therapy sessions. The exercises certainly helped strengthen my son’s body. But seeing someone in person (other than his mom) actually helped him walk.
Speech therapy is a lot harder, both as a therapy and to do over Zoom. And a lot of other options to help aid speech along, like preschool, playdates with kids who can talk, and being around other kids in general, really aren’t an option right now in this pandemic. (Did anyone else think we’d have COVID-19 under control by now? How silly of us!)
We are still doing speech therapy in person only. Despite it not being virtual anymore, it still feels like a full-time job. Even the in-office appointments themselves were hard for about a month and a half. My son spent a vast majority of the sessions asking me for milk in sign language and pointing at the door, essentially asking to leave, until he got used to our therapist. Sometimes our therapist wears a mask, sometimes she wears only a clear face shield. We are nervous about the use of the face shield with the recent uptick in coronavirus cases in the area. But the fact that he doesn’t consistently see her lips could also cause a delay.