Vikas M. did his undergraduate degree at Delhi University in India, graduating in 2003 with a degree in Occupational Therapy, and came to the US in 2006 where he worked in several California school districts—San Diego, LA, Alhambra—practicing occupational therapy in the schools for six years. He joined the PresenceLearning network in 2018.
How have you been helping parents and caregivers, many who are now acting as the primary support person with their child?
In my first session, I explain everything I am working on and the current level of functioning of the student. For example, I explain that their child has difficulty putting spaces between the words at the appropriate line orientation and sizing the letters correctly (oftentimes this is the goal of the student) so we’re going to work on that area. I sometimes send them a copy of the adapted paper via email so that the student can size the letters correctly. Almost all of the elementary students I see have a handwriting goal.
How do you collaborate with teachers and other school staff?
After reviewing the students’ IEPs and after the first session’s observation I suggest adaptations and equipment (like a pencil grip, highlighted paper, paper with raised lines, round inflatable cushion designed specifically for children and activities that can be included in daily classroom routine for improved participation. I also email worksheets to the teachers that the students will be working on at the sessions.
What advice would you give districts considering online therapy?
Teletherapy is very similar to in-person therapy. Nothing is much different. You give instructions in an in-person session and also you give instructions for a teletherapy session. In-person, you don’t do the activity for the student, you give the student instructions, most of the time. And it’s the same online. When the student has an aide to assist him or her, the student can always do the activities that you want. If the student has difficulties, there is always an aide to help. Some students enjoy the sessions online more than in person because they enjoy the games. I use game playing as part of the occupational therapy for skill building, for example, visual perception games. I have had no difficulties in participation.