CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Children with special needs having access to their regular care is critical for their development and social distancing measures puts them at risk of regressing.
"It is really troubling to find out when children cannot access care,” said Dr. Summer McMurry, founder of Carolina Pediatric Therapy.
Dr. McMurry said for children with special needs, consistent care is critical for development. "The longer the children are out of care, the higher the
risk they have of regressing and losing those skills,”
That’s why her facility is now offering virtual sessions, but it means parents have a bigger role to play.
“We’ll ask them to pull out the materials they have, you know paper and pencil,” Dr. McMurry said, “they could have a ball, even masking tape
on the floor with a drawn line, they can practice balancing.”
Dr. McMurry said families can now use apps like FaceTime or Google Duo, which previously wasn’t allowed. “Because it’s a national emergency and we’re in a crisis, they’ve relaxed some of those guidelines.”
Melissa Buczek said for her son William, the virtual sessions they’ve received with their therapist haven’t felt that different.
“They’re stacking up blocks and working on motor skills, knocking them down, working on colors.”
Buczek said it’s going better than one might think. “You’d think a four-year-old wouldn’t sit in front and follow along and follow along as closely as he does, but he does it." Buczek is a coordinator with the special needs organization Gigi’s Playhouse. She said they have live streams and videos her son likes to watch, where he can connect with other kids, and do activities like cooking, working out, and dancing.
She said it helps her son feel connected, while still developing skills and education. For families without a phone or internet, Dr. McMurry said
there could be options for you, too. “If you have Medicaid, your family can qualify for potentially getting a smartphone during this time so they can access their care,” Dr. McMurry said.
Dr. McMurry said if virtual care is impossible they are still seeing some patients on a case by case basis, but that 90 percent of their patients are now being seen virtually.