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 (PDF, New Window)– 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