Making telehealth work when you are 5 years old and non-verbal


Although we have not been able to keep appointments face to face during the pandemic, our Early Intervention and Therapy team are still achieving positive results for families by other means.

One of our recent success stories is five year old David.* When our team first met David he was non-verbal and struggling to express himself. His frustration would result in repeated head banging, screaming and crying. As a consequence he was having incredible difficulties at home and at school.

When Victoria’s first lockdown began, Beatriz, a key worker and occupational therapist in our Early Intervention and Therapy team began working with David and his family via telehealth to assist him to use a Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). The system enables people with limited or no spoken language the ability to communicate using pictures.

“We’d only had a couple of face to face sessions when we made the move to telehealth. At first David didn’t want to engage in the telehealth sessions. So we started by focusing on what his interests were and how we could help him to hold his attention and motivation,” says Beatriz.

With every positive exchange during the telehealth session, Beatriz played David’s favourite song as a way to motivate and encourage him to try again.  She also used a visual schedule so he could see what to expect from each session. “It’s taken time, and there have been ups and downs, but we have been going at his pace and he has now had enormous success using PECS to communicate with his family.”

David’s success has been a team effort between Windermere, David, his family and teachers. “David has made incredible progress and his parents have worked very hard supporting him,” says Beatriz.

The feedback from David’s school and family is that he is much calmer, happier and “like a different boy.” Additionally David’s concentration has improved and his now able to maintain attention for up to 15 minutes, well over the initial goal of five minutes.

To find out more about our early intervention and therapy service please visit here 

*details and photo have been changed to protect privacy


Posted on: 17/08/2020