BOSTON (CBS) — Aurora Keefe is a smart and spirited toddler, but she had a rough start as a baby. According to her mom, Jacquie Grillo, she had eating and sleeping problems, which eventually led to behavioral issues, even as an infant.
“We had a really hard time with her. She was lashing out. She was a very aggressive baby,” she said. “I was at my wits end. I didn’t know how to help her.”
Regular in-home visits with a therapist from Thom Child and Family Services helped Aurora thrive and her family cope with those challenges.
“We’ve been with early intervention for a year and [we] saw such an amazing turnaround,” she said.
But when coronavirus hit, Aurora’s therapist, Heidi Foley, could no longer come to the house.
“Heidi was a fixture in our house,” Grillo said. “I was scared when we couldn’t see her. [Aurora] would ask every day, ‘Where’s Heidi?’”
After a few weeks, Foley and many of the other therapists at Thom started doing their visits virtually. Aurora was Foley’s first.
“We had such an interactive visit. I was like ‘Oh my gosh, I can do this. This is going to be ok,’” she said.
Using the Zoom meeting platform, Foley and Aurora play games, work on flash cards and sing songs — all activities they would have done in person. Aurora, who is not quite three years old, stays engaged and looks forward to the virtual visits.
Thom works with more than 15,000 children across Massachusetts, and since March, therapists have had virtual visits with more than 4,000 of them.
These therapists help children with developmental delays like speech and language issues, kids on the autism spectrum and even infants with feeding difficulties.
According to Foley, visiting with children online is working out much better than she expected, and it prevents a break in services which can impede a child’s progress.
“We are still meeting with you. We are still getting new ideas. I’m still seeing improvements. So I think just keeping it going is imperative,” she said.
For Grillo, keeping that connection with Foley has made a difficult time a bit more manageable.
“It is amazing and I don’t know what we would do if we didn’t have it,” she said.
Early intervention services are free to families for children from birth to age three. Families can find information on finding services at http://www.massfamilyties.org.