Telehealth can be overwhelming for many families. The technology may feel confusing. The process might not make sense to you. You might wonder how Telehealth could possibly meet your needs. Many families worry that if they can’t see their therapist face to face, therapy won’t be as effective. They also worry the process will not be motivating enough for their child with autism.
The good news is that Telehealth is becoming more common in healthcare overall. This is also trickling down to the world of ABA.
Here is a quick guide on how to participate in Telehealth.
The first step to participating in Telehealth ABA is understanding how it will be funded. If you pay for services privately, this should not be an issue. However, you will want to check with your provider to make sure. If your services are funded through insurance, different rules will apply. Most insurance companies have a separate Telehealth policy. This is different from their standard policy for in-person services. Also, Telehealth is rapidly developing in the healthcare field. This means that insurance company policies are likely to keep changing. Make sure you work with your provider to understand what your insurance will cover.
Set Up Technology
To participate in Telehealth, you will need the necessary technology present in your home. This usually includes a computer and a reliable internet connection. It’s best if your computer is portable, so that it can be placed in the therapy location. Additionally, you may need to move the computer throughout the session. The computer is how you and your child will see and talk to your therapist.
Your provider will also set up technology on their end. They will use a HIPAA compliant program for Telehealth to ensure your privacy is protected. They will also ask you to sign additional consent forms specific to Telehealth. Your provider will initiate the video call with you, usually through your email. When you accept the invitation, it may prompt you to download a new program to your computer.
For your first session, you should keep your expectations low. You should expect that Telehealth will feel awkward until you and your provider settle into a routine. Try to keep a lighthearted attitude about the start of Telehealth. Remember that it takes time to learn new systems and routines. This is true not only for your child with autism, but also for you and your therapist!
Here are some tips to help you get over the rocky process of starting Telehealth:
1. It’s OK to multitask, but try to minimize distractions. You might need to make one of your other children a snack during a session. Let your provider know what’s happening. They will understand. At the same time, try to minimize distractions. Turn off music and the TV. Put out a few toys or activities that will be used during the session. Put everything else aside or away.
2. Downtime is OK. Sometimes, the provider may observe you and your child without speaking. You may be playing with your child or helping them do a task the provider has assigned. Lulls in conversation are to be expected. This allows your provider to review what’s been covered so far. These lulls usually pass naturally within a few minutes.
3. Follow your child’s lead. Your child may go into another room or ask for a new toy. Communicate what is happening to your provider. Bring the computer with you. Or, if you are changing a diaper, let your provider know you’ll be right back.
4. Follow your therapist’s lead. Your therapist may ask you to try something with your child. They may ask you to give an instruction or start a new game. Follow their lead and give them feedback on how it went. This will help them make necessary program updates.
Telehealth can be stressful at first, but it doesn’t have to be scary! Now, you have some tools to approach it as a new experience. This new experience can be fun and meaningful for you and your child!
Courtney Gutierrez, M.Ed., BCBA, LBA Courtney is a behavior analyst, educator, and writer in the Pacific Northwest. She has over fifteen years of experience in the field of autism services, and over ten years of master’s level experience in classroom teaching and ABA therapy. Her areas of expertise include infant and toddler development, parent coaching, ABA clinical leadership and training, P-12 special education, and case consultation for children and young adults with autism and other special needs. Courtney lives in Seattle with her husband and two children.