The coronavirus pandemic has suddenly pressured the ABA (applied behavior analysis) community to move toward providing remote or telehealth services especially for families who have a child with autism spectrum disorder.
A need for transitioning to telehealth ABA
In these uncertain times, it is being recommended that people practice “social distancing” which includes encouraging behavioral health service providers to reduce their contact with clients. This is an attempt to prevent the spread of the virus and to protect the safety and health of all people as well as the community as a whole.
Tele-ABA Parent Training
Using telehealth in ABA services, particularly for parent training, has slowly grown in popularity over the past few years. However, the coronavirus development has fueled a much greater demand and very quick expansion of this type of service.
Remote services for children with ASD
Using telehealth within the context of applied behavior analysis services for children with autism spectrum disorder can be completed in a variety of ways. As with any human service, there are differences in the way the service can be implemented. This can be based on the needs of the client, the resources of the service provider, funding regulations, and more.
Formats of Telehealth ABA
Some examples of how telehealth can be used in ABA for families who have a child with ASD or other disabilities include:
- Using a structured curriculum to guide the telehealth sessions between a service provider and a parent such as using the One-Year ABA Parent Training Curriculum
- Using a client-directed approach in which the service provider allows a parent to lead the dialogue and then gives feedback on the the parent’s concerns (even in this scenario, having research-supported materials to guide the provider’s feedback or to give parents applicable handouts and recommendations can be helpful)
- Including the child in the telehealth session with the parent and service provider. This will look vastly different based on the child and parent’s abilities and preferences as well as on the service provider’s clinical skills to facilitate this type of dynamic.
Tips for Telehealth ABA (including Tele-Parent Training)
A few tips to consider when providing telehealth in the context of ABA services for families with a child with ASD or other disabilities:
- Identify a confidential method of providing the telehealth service
- Help parents and children, if they will be involved, get comfortable with the logistics of the service
- Validate any concerns or hesitations the client has about the service
- Be positive and encouraging and express the benefits of the service
- Reinforce the behaviors and participation of the parent and/or client
- Provide continued follow-up about the client’s experience and problem-solve any potential barriers or concerns that arise
- Focusing on natural environment training (as opposed to strictly discrete trial training) can be very helpful.
- Finding ways to help families improve their quality of life by focusing on socially significant topics and realistic goals is recommended.
Consider the ideas and recommendations above for providing telehealth ABA services including ABA parent training via telehealth or remote services.