AnswersNow was born out of a shared passion for getting more families access to quality care.
Adam and I first met as colleagues at a nonprofit that provides innovative programming for children and adults with special needs. As a licensed social worker of over 15 years, I led their in-home services, and Adam, a clinician for 20+ years, served as the school’s director, dedicating his time to high-intensity students with autism.
Parents need more accessible support
Throughout our time at the nonprofit, we both shared many difficult discussions with parents and caregivers. Across the board, we heard the same, resounding feedback: parents, even those who had excellent in-home support or a placement at a top autism school, felt overwhelmed, stressed, and isolated.
Parents of children with special needs face uniquely challenging circumstances. They’re kind of like the CEO’s of their children’s care, expected to know about special education law, the best treatments and medicines for their child, and which of the latest research applies to their child.
For some parents, outside of our school community, we knew a large stressor was often basic access to care. While autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability in the US, there’s a shortage of clinicians, especially in rural and underserved communities. That shortage leads to families waiting an average of 12 months for critical treatment. And for families who do eventually get off a waitlist, some are faced with long, expensive travel to clinics hours away from home.
Our hard conversations with parents made us realize that there was an opportunity to better support families and caregivers by putting them at the center of their child’s care experience, and quickly connecting them to the right resources.
Our approach: Family-centered ABA
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) are two approaches used to treat patients in our field. CBT takes a broader approach, focusing more on emotions, thoughts and habits, and includes significant training for families and caregivers. ABA takes a more specific, immediate approach to behavioral issues through quantifiable, measurable goals.
As a licensed social worker, the majority of my therapeutic work was based on CBT, and I felt strongly about how it incorporates training for caregivers and families. But the first time I saw ABA in practice, I was blown away.
I remember walking across our school’s campus and seeing a child who was having a meltdown, surrounded by a number of aids who were using pads and helmets to try and calm him down. It was tough to watch. I then saw Adam calmly walk toward the child, kneel down next to him, and go through what appeared to be a set of slow moves and gestures. Within one minute, Adam and the child were walking arm-in-arm back to the school.
When I went downstairs to Adam’s office to ask what he’d done, he said, “That was ABA.”
From that moment, I started to think there must be a way we could work together to offer families an approach to care that included the best of both worlds: an emphasis on the training and rapport-building for caregivers offered in CBT, while also using the quantitative, therapeutic principles of ABA. We call our approach ‘family-centered ABA.’
Over the course of many 7 A.M meetings at the local Panera before school, Adam and I came up with the idea for a digital platform that could act as a bridge between families of children with autism and expert clinical support.
Since its founding, we’ve grown from a text-based subscription model that connects parents and clinicians, to a custom-built video platform that hosts virtual, one-on-one family-centered ABA therapy sessions for our clients, which includes training for caregivers.
Today, our Clinical Team is thoughtfully matching clients with a dedicated PhD or Master’s-level clinician who’s aligned with their needs and goals. And then, weekly or sometimes daily, from the comfort of their homes, they’re hopping on our video platform for therapy.
We’re serving families who have transitioned from in-home or traditional therapy centers for easier access, and families who have been sitting on waitlists for over a year. By eliminating wait periods, we’re getting families from assessment to therapy, sometimes in as few as three weeks.
For over 50 years, doctors and referral sources have been saying that ABA therapy can be performed either in your home or in a clinic. With the current research coming out around teletherapy, and both the qualitative and quantitative success we’ve seen firsthand with our families, we’re saying there's actually a third way - our way.
We've had kids learn their first words. One of our six year olds just spoke for the first time. And as much as I wish that our families and parents who love us have this huge affinity for AnswersNow, it's not us. It's the relationships that our families build over time with our talented clinicians. That's where the magic happens, and our digital platform is here to facilitate that.
At the end of the day, no parent should have to feel overwhelmed, isolated or worried about their child receiving care. And no child with autism should be left waiting for months and months without critical support.
Help us get families everywhere access to quality therapy.