NOV 17, 2020

A Day in the Life: ABA Therapy and Telehealth

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we do so many things, from the ways we shop to the ways we see new movies and even, in some cases, the way we access healthcare. Telehealth—the act of receiving health-related services via technology—is becoming an increasingly popular option for many people, including the clients at Intercare. Intercare is committed to providing its clients with access to telehealth resources and this includes therapeutic services like ABA therapy as well as other services, like clinical supervision and parent consults.

Just like our in-person services, telehealth sessions are anything but cookie-cutter. Each telehealth session is tailored to fit the needs of the individual client or family. Still, if you’re curious about what a telehealth session will look like, there are some basic aspects that tend to be consistent across the board.

“A typical session starts with logging on and waiting for the kiddo to come on, then checking up on how they’re doing,” Intercare Behavior Interventionist Jenelle Perez explains. “Then we have to decide what the kiddo wants to play with for the day, whether it be using their iPad or playing games I share via Zoom, or even them showing me new things they got. Then we have intervals of time where the kiddo plays, while simultaneously running some trials in between.”

Lorena Serventi, another of Intercare’s stellar Behavioral Interventionists stresses that sessions can vary greatly (just like they do in person), and adds that parents and caregivers play a more crucial role than ever in telehealth sessions.

“Like any ABA session, it's different with every kid,” she says. “On one end, I’ve got a kiddo and, for the hour, we rotate between our segments. I never know what to expect when going in. Every session is fun and unique—with the amazing help of the caregivers, of course!”

The importance of caregiver support is something everyone on Intercare’s telehealth team agrees is key to its success.

“One thing that was hardest for me about adjusting to telehealth was not being able to be there physically to support parents in times when challenging behaviors occurred,” Serventi admits. “I had to find my footing and get comfortable walking parents through our antecedent strategies and implementing our BIP and maintaining that cohesiveness.”

Parents of Intercare clients have definitely risen to the challenge, however. In fact, according to Clinical Supervisor and BCBA Aysia Smith, one of the silver linings to the pandemic and the changes it’s forced has been that, for some parents at least, it’s given them a chance to be more involved in their children’s care than ever before.

“Some of the more positive impacts I have seen so far with telehealth is parent participation and an increase in client’s social interactions,” she explains. “Staff have been able to capitalize on some of the parents’ free time and facilitate parent training sessions. This has been beneficial for the parents who were extremely busy with their work schedules prior to the pandemic.”

Of course, even with parents and caregivers on hand to lend support, providing ABA therapy through telehealth isn’t without its challenges. Across the board, the Intercare team agrees that distractions are the biggest roadblock to providing effective telehealth care.

“The biggest challenge is definitely getting the kiddo to attend to you while you’re just on the screen, and also being unable to remove any distractions they may have—because they will play around with something while you’re trying to run trials,” Perez says. “One of my kiddos just learned about all the effects on Zoom and they kept flipping their video while I was talking to them.”

Even though telehealth comes with its own set of challenges, everyone on the team at Intercare also agrees that the benefits outweigh those challenges, easily.

“Telehealth has been a huge benefit to some of our older and higher functioning clients,” Smith says. “We have been able to assist families in decreasing behavior excess surrounding Zoom sessions, facilitate opportunities to be flexible with changes, and schedule peer dates with clients. It has proven to be super beneficial for some of my clients as they were unable to build friendships with other peers because they were homeschooled.”

At the end of the day, of course, everyone at Intercare agrees the best and most rewarding thing about telehealth is the same as it is in traditional, face-to-face sessions: The satisfaction that comes with making an impact in a client’s life.

“I’ve been with these families for going on four years now,” Serventi explains. “So it's been so beneficial and rewarding to see all of our clinical team's hard work, over the years, come to fruition. Witnessing and knowing that all the time we've spent together is what is really making these sessions successful, is amazing! I've just really enjoyed being able to see the kiddos continue to still meet their goals, in their natural environment, and with their families.”