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5 Reasons to Try Telehealth Services for Your Autistic Child During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Surreal. Unprecedented. Life-changing. 

These are all words our society and media have used countless times in the past few weeks to describe COVID-19, the new-to humans virus that causes respiratory infection and can lead to serious or fatal health complications. And they are accurate. They aptly describe this collective “pause” in our society that none of us have ever experienced. The sweeping impact of the coronavirus is surreal. The widespread societal restrictions are unprecedented. And the disruption is life-changing.

Overnight, your “village” is no longer accessible — unless at a distance of greater than six feet, or via a screen.

If you are raising a child with a disability such as autism, your “team” is likely larger than the proverbial “village.”  Most of the time, ours is more like a mid-to-large-sized town. The school team alone is easily in the double digits. There are five other kids in my son Mr. D’s special education day class and 29 other kids in his mainstream class. He has a dozen or so private service providers, and his medical team includes three regulars and a rotating cast of specialists. And that’s not even touching our community — the dozens of room parents, and coop parents, and playground volunteers, and PTA moms and dads who regularly say hi to Mr. D. — not to us, mind you, to him — in the supermarket, at the playground, and in line for a haircut.

And in the course of a few days, access to this town-full of resources has evaporated.  At least in person.  

Should you try telehealth?

Ten days ago, one of our providers mentioned telehealth for the first time with reference to our non-verbal, high-support-needs autistic child. I immediately dismissed the idea. Our squirmy, kinesthetic, outgoing child was not going to listen to someone in an iPad.

But that was 10 days ago.

Surreal. Unprecedented. Life-changing.

The same descriptors we are using for our current health crisis can also be used for the effects of telehealth on families of children with disabilities. Even as we were agreeing to and scheduling these telehealth sessions, we were wary — I scheduled one at a time, with zero promises to continue. But now we have numerous weekly sessions as part of our quarantine life. And you should think about it too.

Here are five reasons why you should consider telehealth:

 

1. Your child is learning in their most authentic environment.

As we all shelter in place, our home is truly our world. But when this “now” passes, and we move on to a new “now,” your child will still be at home — or at the very least, with you — more than anywhere else.

2. You can mix therapies more creatively.

Your speech vocabulary can be your occupational therapy activity.  And an extra bonus if you can also contribute to the household while you do it.  Can you count forks? Sort socks? Put away (sanitized!) groceries?

3. You can gain confidence with a “live” coach.

More than once, our therapists have said they felt like a fly on the wall in these sessions. There are people who pay thousands of dollars for experts to film them in their everyday life and then get feedback. This is now covered by your usual co-pay.

4. You may be surprised at the growth.

You will have a front-row seat at your child’s therapy, and though your usual seat is likely in row 2, you will be amazed at the relative view.

5. You will gain freedom.

Not only will you be able to better implement strategies for this challenging period of quarantine, but you will also be able to travel more freely once the restrictions are lifted.  Not unlike Jiminy Cricket on your shoulder, what you learn during this surreal time will be unprecedented.

And if telehealth helps make travel and other joys of life more manageable for months and years to come, then that will truly be life-changing.

For more on parenting during quarantine, check out the following stories from our community:

Image Credits: Lara Sandora