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7 Technology Tips for Tele-Intervention

Technology is great when it works, right? It’s such an embedded part of most of our lives when we are not in the throws of a global pandemic that many of us hardly think about it. Now, though, when early interventionists are chin deep in trying to navigate tele-intervention, figuring out how to connect through technology is essential.

I’ve been picking the brains of amazing EI practitioners and local system managers to find out what they are doing to make the technology work, not only for themselves but also for the families they support. I’ve organized some of the great ideas I’ve heard into the list below.

A big THANK YOU to the practitioners and leaders from Fairfax, Norfolk, Prince William, Danville-Pittsylvania, Southside, Roanoke Valley, Rockbridge Area, Central VA, Cumberland Mountain, Middle Peninsula-Northern Neck and others who shared their experiences with me!

7 Technology Tips

Here are 7 tips for managing technology when preparing for or providing tele-intervention:

1. Prepare yourself first – Before you contact the parent, make sure you have an understanding of what tele-intervention is. Watch the TelePractice in Early Intervention webinar for a fantastic overview and tons of strategies. Watch a video such as A Home Visit with Zander, Providing Early Intervention Services through Distance Technology, or Tele-Intervention – Coaching during Family Chore-Laundry to see how coaching works during tele-intervention. Educate yourself about the technology so you can answer parents’ questions as best you can. Larry Edelman has prepared a great resource document about technology: Planning for the Use of Video Conferencing for Early Intervention Home Visits during the COVID-19 Pandemic – check it out!

2. Touch base the “usual way” – Reach out to the parent using your typical means of communication – phone, email, or text, depending on what’s permitted in your program or preferred by the family. Check in about the family’s welfare first, then ease the conversation into virtual options for connecting.

3. Explore and explain options – Without making any assumptions about family preferences or capability, explore the available options for video visits or phone contacts for service delivery. Explain how each option could work and paint a picture of what it might look like. If the parent is interested (or even unsure), share a link to the video, A Home Visit with Zander, so he/she can watch a visit and hear from a parent about how tele-intervention can work. Be sure to invite the parent to ask questions, share any worries, and think through the possibilities with you.

4. Share your vulnerability – It’s okay to let the parent know that this is new for you too. Assure the parent that you will figure it out together and that, if the parent chooses the high tech option (aka video confererencing) and something goes wonky, you always have a low tech option as Plan B (aka phonecall).

5. Schedule a tech check – Before the actual video visit, schedule a 15 minute tech check. This may be a non-billable activity, but it’s worth it. Send the parent the video conferencing link with detailed instructions about how to connect. Get online together, check video, audio, lighting, etc. and talk about where the device will be positioned so you can see the family the best. Plan together for what the parent wants to do during the actual visit and how the technology can be used so you can observe and collaborate. If you or the parent has tech problems, remember the #1 rule of thumb with troubleshooting: when in doubt, back out and try again. Log out of the video conference and try to log back in. If that doesn’t work, log out and restart the computer. If that still doesn’t work, try another browser. Persistence will pay off, I promise.

6. Problem-solve Wifi issues – Here’s where practitioners are getting creative. I’ve heard of folks parking in the family’s driveway for the video visit so the family can access the practitioner’s hotspot, then holding the visit using technology with the practitioner parked outside. What an idea! Some schools are offering hotspots for older children – can the family use that connection for the visit? If there are limitations on data or bandwidth, schedule the visit at a time when issues should (hopefully) be at a minimum, like in the afternoon after older children are finished with online learning.

7. Let the parent decide – If a parent is unsure about either option, encourage him/her to try a phone or video visit then evaluate how it went. If the parent declines, that’s okay. Parents can put their services on hold at any time; just be sure that they fully understand their options, privacy, and the support you can provide. Be sure to document your discussion and check back in with the family often in case they change their minds.

Once everything is in place and your fingers are firmly crossed, schedule that first visit and go for it. Take a deep breath before you connect with the parent and enter the video call with confidence. Expect some hiccups, be flexible, practice your patience, and exercise your sense of humor. This will get easier and both you and the family will adjust, together.

You’ve got this.

What strategies are you using to prepare families for tele-intervention?

What creative ideas are you using to help families manage technology needs?

Let’s hear your best ideas! Share them in the chat and let’s continue to support one another. J


For more information, videos, webinars, and online training related to tele-intervention, visit these sites:

COVID-19 and EI Tele-Intervention Updates – VA EI Professional Development Center

Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) – ECTA Center

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13 Comments to “7 Technology Tips for Tele-Intervention”

  1. I am a PT with Fairfax ITC and want to share my appreciation for your concise and helpful “Tips for Teleworking”. Now that I have been using telepractice for the last few weeks, I am getting better at troubleshooting. I still find it challenging working with families who are as technologically challenged as I am. I love your comment about sharing vulnerabilities with the families. We are all a little anxious and stressed right now and it is good to share that it doesn’t have to be perfect. Telepractice has been a great way to stay connected with families and it is reinforcing and highlighting the strength of coaching.

    • I really appreciate this, Lynn! I’m so glad this post was helpful. I agree, all of us – you, me, our colleagues, families – are experiencing so many life changes and different stresses now and we have to help each other get through them with kindness, understanding, and lots of patience. Hang in there and keep up the great work!

  2. Rebecka would be so proud—“try another browser.”

  3. I am a PT with Fairfax ITC. Over the past month of practicing tele-intervention both providers and families are becoming more comfortable with the scenario and less rattled by the technology glitches. With quarantine and parents working from home I have had the opportunity to involve both parents (at the same time) in sessions together with the child. Two families have reported they feel even more empowered to facilitate change/progress with their child. As they practice handling techniques together, each observing and coaching the other during the session they report being more accountable during all routines between sessions. This has been particularly rewarding as their children master transitioning from one position to another. Both families have expressed a desire to continue with some tele practice sessions after we have a new normal.

  4. I am a PT with Fairfax County and am surprised and proud of my newfound technology skills. Tele-intervention has forced me kicking and screaming into the world of technology! My own tech savvy family members don’t get to laugh at me as much anymore. My families and I find ourselves laughing at our technology challenges as we help each other thru glitches. During the sessions the “tech check” usually turns into a social/life happening update from the families. They too are seeking some safe, non-family member, interaction time. It’s good to see older siblings helping parents with the sessions as well.

    • Good for you, Wilma! I love your sense of humor. Thanks for bringing up how the tech check also is a social check in with the family. That might take longer than the 15 min I suggested but it sounds like such a valuable thing to do to take the time to listen and connect so planning for the extra time would be well worth it!

  5. I love your tips about troubleshooting technology. Another success that I’ve had with troubleshooting is that if the family has another device they can try sometimes one connects better than another. I’ve also switched between my phone and laptop with success. I feel like the unpredictability of technology is one of the biggest ongoing challenges with telepractice, as there are so many potential technology glitches that are not “user error”, thus more challenging to know how to correct. We have a group chat of all our interventionists and we often help message about technology problems we are having, sometimes in real time, so we can benefit from each other’s experiences and advice.

  6. Thank you Dana for the concise and helpful strategies for tele intervention.
    I am a PT with Fairfax county and over the past couple months, I have come to terms with the new normal.
    I definitely feel that preparing for Assessments and tele sessions beforehand has made me feel confident for a smooth tele session. I feel that I am being creative in supporting parents to learn new strategies for helping their children with meeting developmental milestones. My favorite is using a doll to model strategies and having parents practice those strategies during the session. Tele sessions have been helpful for some of my kids who are very nervous with having a new person in the house.

    • Great points, Shivali! I’ve heard others say that they hope tele-intervention will continue to be an option in the future for just the reason you mention. Getting to see what a child does naturally can be a game changer, especially when that child’s behavior would really change with the unfamiliar person in the room.

  7. Love what you are doing here and thanks to everyone for all your tips. Like everyone, we have been inventing wheels, but I also appreciate falling back on what we have been doing all along. So, when doing intakes, I utilize the welcome book (That summarizes rights, e.i, pathway, principles and practices of e.i., etc.) that our system already uses, and just think about how to get the information across verbally (if phone is the only method the family can use), or by email, Text, etc. One less wheel.

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Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material (including all text and images) without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. For assistance with an appropriate citation, please contact Dana Childress at dcchildress@vcu.edu. Thank you!