Will virtual autism therapy (including virtual ABA therapy) benefit my child?

The practice of teletherapy has risen in prominence in the United States, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. The question many parents are asking, however, is whether or not this form of remote therapy is suitable for helping kids with autism and autism spectrum disorders. 

We’re here to help guide you through your options on virtual therapy, including applied behavior analysis (ABA)-influenced support.

What is teletherapy?

The Department of Health and Human Services’ telehealth website defines teletherapy as individual, one-on-one support provided through a telehealth platform. Americans are increasingly trusting of teletherapy as an option for behavioral healthcare, with just under 60% of them open to using it. 

Like any form of therapeutic support, it won’t be suitable for every person or condition. Studies are continually being done, but existing research suggests the jury’s out on whether teletherapy on its own has broken down barriers to psychological support. It’s greatest potential, arguably, lies with providers, and the efforts they make to break down those barriers and the exact tools they use to support patients.

Does teletherapy work for kids with autism?

Based on the research that has been done so far, the effectiveness of teletherapy for kids with autism spectrum disorders is promising. Because every child and every family is different, however, it’s important for parents and caregivers to look closely at the virtual support services each clinician is offering before making a decision. 

There are a few prerequisites a child will need to successfully benefit from virtual, 1-to-1 teletherapy, including being able to sit at a computer for at least 30 minutes; a calm environment with minimal distractions; the ability to follow simple directions and to navigate an electronic device; absence of any safety concerns; and the ability to tolerate delayed rewards.

Psyched Services Pocket Coaching Benefits

Among our parent resources, the pocket coaching service connects kids and their parents or caregivers with an analyst who uses proven behavior solutions and the principles of applied behavior analysis, or ABA, to help a child. We’ll go into detail on ABA below.

Some of the ways this support can be used include study skills, chores and routines, behavioral functioning, and social-emotional skills. We have supported kids with autism spectrum disorders, as well as ADHD and emotional disorders, through pocket coaching.

The approach behind pocket coaching is collaborative and positive. For each concern, a specific plan will be created to reduce challenging behaviors and build new skills. Progress is tracked to ensure the plan is working, or determine if adjustments need to be made. And each case is individualized to the child’s needs, with no “one size fits all” approach to ABA.

What is applied behavior analysis (ABA) – and what role does it play in virtual therapy?

Put simply, applied behavior analysis is therapy that emphasizes the development of positive, desired behaviors, and the minimization of undesirable or harmful ones. ABA has been around since the 1960s. 

When applied correctly, it can be transformative for kids with autism spectrum disorders. But it’s worth noting that not everything about ABA throughout its history has been good. 

Behavior modification that uses punishments; discourages coping mechanisms like stimming; singles out a child; or leans too heavily into operant conditioning without helping kids understand the why behind changes, are not features of ABA therapy today. In fact, an ABA board exists today that carefully examines theories and practices with the help of an ethical review committee and an ethics code

Here are some of the questions that should guide any ABA provider, and that we use at Psyched Services:

  • Is the help being provided socially valid? In other words, does it have social significance, and will it be used in the child’s life?
  • Does the child see it as valid in their lives? The benefit needs to be actively felt.
  • What is the feedback from the child, and the parents/family? Families provide a lot of feedback and input. There is no such thing as dropping a child off at a clinic, with parents or families having zero participation. 
  • Is the therapy in the best interest of the child/client? 

When its principles are used correctly and ethically; it can drastically improve the quality of life for kids and their families. We stress, however, the importance of finding the right provider, someone who shares the same goals, values approach and is committed to the consent and assent of the therapy being provided.

If you’re curious about virtual autism therapy, including pocket coaching, schedule a call with us to discuss their needs, including whether it could be effective and helpful for your child’s situation. 

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