- Autism & Developmental Services
Written By: Mariela Tapia Hernandez, RBT
Reviewed by: Melanie Bren, BCBA, LBA
Telehealth services have rapidly increased due to the covid-19 pandemic, and it is now commonly used to provide reliable services across different providers. Telehealth is the use of communication technology to assist in the education and treatment of health-related conditions. (Ferguson, Jenny, et al. 2019). Telehealth is a way of receiving services without stepping foot outside your home, and all that is needed is internet access on your computer, tablet, or smartphone. An ABA therapist leads telehealth sessions, but the parent’s support is helpful during prompting, specific activities, giving reinforcement, and managing behavior.
For many families, health is a big concern, especially during a pandemic. It is entirely reasonable that families may still be apprehensive about transitioning into in-person services, especially when elders and high-risk family members are involved. Clinics staff do their best to keep a clean and safe environment for clients by consistently wiping toys and tables, checking temperature, and wearing face masks. By using telehealth services, there is less exposure to other people’s germs.
Telehealth services are convenient for busy parents. The session can accommodate busy schedules, such as school, work, and other activities throughout the week. It is also convenient by reducing drive time and gas to get to the clinic during drop-off and pick-ups. Telehealth sessions can be done from the comfort of your own home, and it is an excellent accommodation for families that have unreliable transportation.
Sometimes children may behave differently in the home than they do at the clinic. Challenging behaviors are more likely to occur at home since children are most comfortable and spend most of their time in that environment. Telehealth therapy allows ABA therapists and Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA’s) to observe these behaviors in real-time. It permits them to get a greater understanding and help make adjustments to treatment plans based on the child’s individual needs.
Telehealth lets more families receive ABA services who previously were not able to because of their geographical location. Often, families that live in isolated areas do not have access to BCBA’s or travel extremely long distances to get services. These families can significantly benefit from Telehealth ABA services.
Everyone’s home environment is different, so it is essential to decide what works best for your family. Sometimes, things in the environment can distract the client, such as background noises, pets, and siblings. We always suggest a quiet and comfortable space for our clients during telehealth sessions.
From time to time, issues arise when using technology that can take up learning time during the session, such as lost connections or audio problems that may take some time to adjust. Even common mistakes can occur, such as a dead battery or broken devices. It is helpful to have backup tools available such as a tablet or even a phone can work.
Telehealth can sound intimidating to some parents who are not as tech-savvy. These parents might find it challenging to use technology or do not feel comfortable using it at all. ABA practices will have helpful resources for families who need more education on navigating technology in these situations. Such as brochures, articles, and cheat sheets to navigating Telehealth sessions. ABA therapists are more than willing to provide additional support to these families. Parents should communicate these concerns with their providers to get the help needed.
Not everyone has the best experiences with video conferencing services. It takes some trial and error to decide which one works best for you and your ABA therapist. All smart devices have access to video calls; however, many other video chat applications have great features that benefit Telehealth. For example, Zoom is one of the most popular video meeting platforms widely used across many professional businesses, schools, and Telehealth therapy because of its high-quality video and audio features. Most agree that Zoom decreases the risks of technical issues or difficulty for both users. The best part is that it is free of cost for most individuals. Another excellent feature is that it allows individuals to share their computer screens in real-time, making it easier for ABA therapists to display interactive activities, instructional videos, and multiplayer games. Zoom is just one of the many applications that are accessible. Below are some of the alternative video chatting applications available:
During Telehealth, the parent can get more involved during sessions and ask any questions. The ABA therapist will help guide parents through tasks and all the child’s programs created by their BCBA before services begin. Parents and caregivers can learn how to implement positive learning opportunities and develop a more robust understanding of how ABA skills can be applied in everyday life. ABA is continually improving through research and has shown to have great results in modifying behavior through positive reinforcement. A BCBA will have consistent training opportunities for families to implement strategies to help their children with communication, social, and daily living skills.
ABA therapists get pretty creative with Telehealth by using their client’s favorite interests to get them excited during those 2-3 hour sessions. To give some examples, if a client is fascinated by superheroes or fairies and princesses, ABA therapists will base teaching around those favorite topics. Since ABA is all about following the client’s motivation, they do their best to make it as fun as possible! A therapist may suggest parents have preferred reinforcers ready for clients before their session begin. Reinforcers can be anything the child likes, such as toys, favorite snacks, or fun activities. We continually praise and reward clients for completing tasks, working on new skills, and demonstrating good behavior. Often, clients do not even realize they are learning because they have a blast during sessions and get access to all their favorite things. BCBA’s and ABA therapists will work directly with the client through Telehealth and focus on individualized goals based on their client’s unique needs.
By: Mariela Tapia Hernandez, RBT
Reviewed by: Melanie Bren, BCBA, LBA
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