Autism Resource blog:
ABA Therapy

Myth-Busting ABA: Telehealth Delivery

Sep 17, 2021
Courtney K.
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Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is a powerful treatment option for people with developmental conditions like autism or ADHD. ABA works to increase socially significant behaviors and reduce barriers to learning and has been extensively proven to be effective.

Historically, ABA therapy has been provided as an in-person service with either a clinician coming into the patient’s home to deliver services or the patient going to an ABA therapy center to meet with a clinician. However, at the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic a shift in the practice occurred and many families started to attend ABA virtually. Eighteen months later, online ABA therapy is here to stay but many families still have questions on how it works and how it is effective.

As a provider of virtual ABA therapy, AnswersNow is here to offer explanations for some of your biggest misconceptions about virtual ABA: 

1. Children with autism spectrum disorder can’t use advanced technology like video calls and my child can’t attend to a computer screen on their own to make virtual ABA successful.

AnswersNow has worked hard to create an environment that is customized for ABA therapy as well as children with autism. Our platform is straightforward and utilizes features that help your child focus on the task at hand. Whether that means the BCBA working with your child changes the view so that your child is focused only on the images in their activity or that the BCBA stays on screen while they watch a video together, they are trained to keep your child successful. Children are faced with a similar challenge when doing their ABA therapy in-person and are often overwhelmed by all of the objects a BCBA brings for their activities. If a parent wants to attend the first few sessions to help their child remain focused in a new environment, they are welcome and our BCBAs will work towards a goal of independent attendance.

2. Without any physical materials, my child won’t respond to the clinicians.

It is not so much the physicality of the materials a BCBA brings to their therapy sessions that keeps your child engaged, rather it is the activity at hand.

AnswersNow’s online platform has built in activities that our BCBAs use that mimic the activities performed at in-person therapy. There are recognition activities, memory activities, and even celebration animations for the BCBA to engage so that your child receives positive reinforcement just like they would if the BCBA was in your home. Additionally, a BCBA may not be physically present, but they can absolutely still prompt your child to use physical objects available in the home to stimulate them during a session. Asking a child to “go get a toy and come back to the screen” or “grab a puzzle and work with me” helps a BCBA turn a 2D experience into a 3D one.

3. A clinician needs to be physically present to manage my child’s behavior.

At AnswersNow, our team is well-trained in how to teach appropriate replacement behaviors to help a child regulate and manage difficult emotions during a session. Our goal is to teach YOU the skills for success when a clinician isn't there, so during opportunities when your child is learning new regulation skills or learning the basics of skills essential for learning, we encourage parents to be online. For severe problem behaviors that cannot be safely managed in the home, our clinicians assist families in determining whether a face-to-face approach would better suit their particular needs.

4. My clinician won’t be close with my family if they are only in an online video.

At AnswersNow, we do not find that physical proximity is necessary for a clinician to be close to the child or family they are working with. Typically, children with autism spectrum disorder find comfort in a routine and keeping a consistent schedule with your clinician gives your child an opportunity to feel good about their regular meetings. As for the rest of the family, your clinician will build in sessions focused on parent training and even family training, becoming a resource for all of the people most important in your child’s life.

5. Virtual ABA will not be as effective for my child as in-person ABA. 

In its Model Coverage Policy for Adaptive Behavior Services, the ABA Coding Coalition identifies telehealth as an evidence-informed approach to ABA treatment. The body of scientific support for tele-ABA continues to grow with the sharp increase in access to this type of care, which resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic.

For many families, in-person ABA is not an option due to lack of clinicians in their area and/or long waitlists preventing them from starting immediately. AnswersNow is here to help these families, along with others who prefer a virtual or telehealth modality. Upon intake, our clinicians use a telehealth screening tool with each family to ensure the appropriateness of fit before proceeding with treatment. Factors such as an individual’s clinical needs, access (or lack thereof) to access local BCBAs, and a families’ ability to participate in telehealth over a wireless internet connection are assessed. AnswersNow believes this information is critical for families to make the most informed decision about the ABA treatment modality that will most effectively support their unique needs. If you are unsure about the ways virtual ABA can benefit you, reach out to our intake team to start a conversation!

6. My doctor prescribed therapy and most people I know in ABA therapy receive 30 hours of treatment per week; how will virtual ABA meet that number?

Not every child prescribed ABA therapy is clinically recommended for 30 hours per week. Most of AnswersNow’s clients receive 10-15 hours per week. To help ensure that your child is still making appropriate progress, your BCBA will create concrete and specific goals that are meaningful to your child. Ensuring that a child is meeting milestones along their way in their journey to success is an important part of writing a treatment plan.

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