A home atmosphere can bring comfort and practicality, especially when it comes to therapy services for children.
Dan McLellan, owner/therapist with McLellan Homecare, explained that offering physical, occupational and speech/language therapy in a natural environment offers plenty of benefits. His company serves clients from birth to age 21.
“In Colorado, especially for birth to age 3, (child therapy) services are required to be in what’s called their natural environment, which can be their home, a preschool or a church. All children who qualify for early intervention services receive their services in that ‘natural environment,’” McLellan said.
Children don’t have to be homebound to receive home care services. Clients can range from those who are fully functioning who receive speech therapy to those who may need more extensive services, such as augmentative or computer-assisted therapy. Although he doesn’t necessarily identify trends, McLellan said the need for varied levels of speech therapy and services for children on the autism spectrum have increased.
When therapists visit homes, children learn to complete exercises and build skills using tools and other items that are already familiar to them. And sessions occur in a relaxed environment.
“We use items in the home for exercise programs. We use furniture and blankets that are in the home. We use the children’s toys, their books as part of the therapy,” said McLellan.
In turn, therapists can teach parents and caregivers how to help children with those same familiar items. The idea is to ensure that the therapy provided matches the individual child and continues beyond the 45 to 60-minute weekly session.
For example, McLellan shared a story where a child had been taught to use a pegboard in prior therapy, but his mother said he had never learned how to put quarters into a vending machine, which was more useful and needed for that child.
“We can work on functional activities. If a child is learning to walk with a walker in their home with their carpeting, their stairs and their rugs, we work on that. We help them with balance; we are working with their couch, their bed. It’s about real-life opportunities to help the child.”
Benefits of home care extend to practicality, as well. Parents don’t have to worry about parking or finding child care for other children. And staying home can minimize exposure to illness.
“A lot of our kids are on ventilators or could have Cerebral Palsy,” he said, explaining the need for limiting exposure to others.
Progress is measured individually for each child. A plan of care is developed with measurable goals, and those goals are re-evaluated every 60 days. McLellan said therapists always check with parents to make sure the plan of care meets their goals.
Referrals for early intervention therapy services come from county community center boards, from physicians, from social services for foster children and from other county programs for children with special needs. Home health agencies often refer to each other to make sure families are served appropriately.
Services may be covered by insurance or Medicaid if ordered by a doctor. In turn, a plan of care is reviewed by doctors every 60 days.
“We really try to cater to each child individually. Kids might have the same diagnosis, but it could look differently. And parents have different goals.
We try to fulfill those needs the best possible way.”
By Kathleen Duff, Raised in the Rockies.