Finding New Ways to Play, Works!

March 24, 2020 • by Sarah McDonnell
Telehealth

Play Works Children’s Therapies in Hood River, Oregon continues to remove barriers for all children to receive critical pediatric therapy services for children with disabilities, even during these trying times. The agonizing decision to discontinue in-clinic services and move to a 100 percent telehealth platform became effective Monday, March 16. “We know that children and families will continue to require support in the absence of school and clinic-based speech, occupational, and physical therapy programming”, says McDonnell. “Remaining true to our mission of all children and families in the Columbia River Gorge region and beyond having access to expert, evidence-based pediatric therapy services free of financial, cultural, and time & distance barriers, we needed to get creative, quickly,” stated Sarah McDonnell, Owner and Executive Director of Play Works Children’s Therapies and Center for Autism Services. Using telehealth will allow Play Works to continue to provide valuable services while observing social distancing measures in the least disruptive and effective way possible.

This is the most right thing to do, how we do our part balancing the current social restrictions against the need to continue to offer our services in the least disruptive and most effective way possible.”

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The response has been extremely positive from current Play Works families and the community at large. “Our experience has been amazing! We have been with Play Works for 4 years, accessing multiple therapies.” reports Melissa Martin, whose son, Caleb, participates multiple times each week. “As far as the telehealth services, it was very easy to set up & access, and so far it seems to work well! We have participated in one speech therapy session so far and are excited to see how OT goes today! I love the flexibility & freedom of being at home. With living out of town it opens up more accessible times without having to drive, reducing scheduling restrictions. It really helps to have some sort of routine & a little normalcy, where there really isn’t any right now.”

Dr. Richard Martin, DO, of Northwest Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine shares "Our little patients benefit so much from the dedicated expertise of the local therapists who work with children. We are continually thankful for all our local resources for children, which often make all the difference for the development of these children. We’ve long incorporated the practical technologies of telehealth into our services, generally slowed only by regulations that have failed to keep up with the technology. We fully expect that the telehealth efforts at Play Works Children’s Therapies will succeed in the newly telehealth friendly regulatory environment of COVID-19, as it is an essential service in this environment in particular, and has been for decades in rural areas such as ours. Telehealth is tailor-made for rural environments, especially for young families that may have additional transportation, weather, and economic access to care barriers. It also serves a great purpose in the coordination of care, shared learning, and strengthening of the child’s medical home. State and federal legislators should do everything they can to support telehealth initiatives in the transformation of our healthcare system. Support of early childhood initiatives, therapies, and care has shown to be critical in the development of our little citizens and must be given the priority it deserves."

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Some may wonder how a child is able to receive motor-based therapy services over the computer. “As any in person or telehealth pediatric therapy service, parent/therapist communication, teamwork, trust, and patience are vital”.” says Angela Ripley, DPT, and Therapist Supervisor at Play Works. “It is important that we ease any parental anxiety from the start of our first telehealth session and emphasize the parent/therapist relationship”. It is the standard of care for our team to conduct a virtual home assessment of equipment and supplies available to the family that will be used during the telehealth sessions. “The name of the game is ‘be creative’ and ‘think outside of the box’ as a broom is not a broom, but an assist bar to help a patient with a spinal cord injury do sit-ups.”, says Ripley.


“As a new mom, discovering that my child has a lifelong condition was not an easy thing to adjust to. I remember the day in October it really sunk in that Wylie was not going to grow up like a typical kid. Angela sat with me in the office while I cried my eyes out in fear of the unknown. So here we are, almost six months later, during a pandemic. We are making progress with Wylie's strength and reflex integration. I can't imagine if these services were to stop.” Says Play Works parent, Tiffany George. She goes on to say “Telehealth has its benefits too like, instead of focusing attention on PT or OT for an hour or two a week at the office, it's taught us to look for "play work" moments throughout our day. And the best part is, we don't have to get out of our PJ's if we don't want to. We cannot stop working towards our goals just because of the circumstances. We must band together and support these types of care facilities by keeping up with our children's therapies. Our little Gorge community is so lucky to have these kinds of services and people in our kid's lives.”

Our dedicated staff remains available to answer any questions you may have. Thank you, Hood River community, for your trust in Play Works Children’s Therapies for the past four years. We are here to let you know that we aren’t going anywhere, and we will continue to offer occupational, physical, and speech therapy via telehealth, until we can do so, safely, in our outpatient pediatric clinic.

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