Caregiver Co-Regulation Coaching Successful Amid Pandemic

As the Covid-19 pandemic was developing in 2020 and case numbers steadily increased, Brittany and Mark Imminks’ options for receiving occupational therapy services for their son Isaiah, then 4, was next to impossible. Facilities were forced to temporarily shut their doors as the pandemic raged on. On top of the fact that occupational therapy was cost prohibitive because of their high deductible insurance, the Imminks were not sure who to turn to or where to start as they needed help, quickly.

Due to the shutdown, occupational therapists were forced to get creative and think of alternative ways to deliver services. Michelle Suarez. Ph.D, Associate Professor at WMU and member of the Resiliency Center for Families and Children steering committee, was also unable to continue face-to-face therapy so shesearched for ways to serve families in need utilizing a virtual platform. Caregiver Co-Regulation Coaching was developed to meet the needs of families of young children with severe regulation issues that impact family functioning.

Caregiver Co-Regulation Coaching is ideal for caregivers of children who have experienced trauma ages 0-10 years who struggle to maintain a just right state of arousal for participation in everyday activities.  The caregiver and occupational therapist connect one time per week on a virtual video platform. Treatment is driven through analysis of the child’s engagement in target activities using videos that the caregiver and occupational therapist review together. Joint establishment of weekly goals helps the occupational therapist and caregiver collaborate to ensure caregiver satisfaction with progress toward shared engagement, peaceful participation and joyful relationships during everyday life.

Suarez began reaching out to local groups and organizations to connect with families most in need to provide virtual therapy and parental coaching strategies. One group she contacted was a local foster care parent group, where she was connected with the Immink family.

“We have worked with Dr. Suarez for the past year, each week” (virtually), says Brittany Immink, Isaiah’s Mom. 

 “Working with Michelle has been life changing. One year ago, we were really struggling with our son and his behaviors. They have helped us work through several different things, and we are in so much of a better place now. We feel empowered with strategies and options,” continued Brittany.

Services received by the Imminks were funded through the WMU Resiliency Center for Families and Children. In 2020, the State of Michigan funded the College of Health and Human Services and the Unified Clinics for the development of the center to address the many needs of those experiencing trauma, toxic stress, chronic disability, neurodevelopmental disorders or substance use disorders. Referrals for the Resiliency Center for Families and Children can be made by calling the social worker for the center at (269) 387-7004.