JMU clinic gets creative to continue services to children

jmuUnable to hold regular face-to-face sessions with clients since mid-March, a James Madison University-based occupational therapy program for children has found another way to continue its services during the COVID-19 pandemic, “OT-to-Go” kits.

“They seem to be really enjoying it,” said Liz Richardson, director of JMU’s Occupational Therapy Clinical Education Services. “We’re getting some photos from the families of what the kids have put together based on what was in the kits. I think it’s something that the children and the parents look forward to.”

Located on Grace Street, the clinic serves children from around the central Shenandoah Valley who have sensory processing challenges, autism, Down syndrome, developmental delays, ADHD and a number of other conditions that complicate learning.

Richardson said the to-go kits, which families pick up at the office, provide children with the same activities they would do on visits. “We try to do a combination of different things to work on gross motor skills, fine motor skills, sensory processing, following instructions, executive function, cognitive types of skills,” she said.

The kits contain items the office staff has been collecting for years, Richardson said, including empty water bottles and toilet paper rolls. The materials are packaged in plastic buckets and bins along with instructions for the activities. Each week’s activities align with a theme, such as, “stress management and coping,” “springtime and Easter,” “environment and nature” and “chores and spring cleaning.”

“We’re having a really good time with it,” Richardson said. “This was a way for us to immediately connect with the families and listen to them and to let them know, ‘we are here for you no matter what.’ We know the children need something to do, we’re trying to establish those routines and we miss seeing the children and the parents each week.”

Beginning this week, the clinic is offering some telehealth services that enable the therapy team to do some work with clients via phone or video conferencing. The clinic has discussed providing services virtually in the past, but didn’t have time to delve into it. The COVID-19 pandemic made it a necessity. “There have been some informal meetings with the families and that provides more motivation to make this work because those exchanges are just so amazing. We’ll figure it out,” Richardson said.

Therapist Christiana Santos said, “I’m glad there are experts in the field who have been doing this a couple of years and they’re stepping up now and providing education to the rest of us. We are so relationship-based and we really connect with our kids, having this physical distance has threatened that in some way. Trying to maintain those relationships and really focus on the kids and the families and their personalities and try to continue to be silly and fun using technology, that’s a little scary.”

About JMU Occupational Therapy Clinical Education Services

A part of the JMU Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services, the JMU OTCES is a self-supporting clinic that promotes student development, inter-professional collaboration and clinical research while meeting the needs of children, families and community agencies in Harrisonburg and surrounding areas.

Services include traditional one-on-one occupational therapy evaluations, interventions and consultative services. Additional group programs and camps address specific needs that cannot be adequately met by other community programs. The clinic operates with the support of JMU’s graduate occupational therapy program, with both students and faculty members collaborating on clinic events and services.

Information from JMU Media Services


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