Teletherapy + Autism

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By Elise Mitchell, M.S. CCC-SLP

I should start this blog by giving some history about myself.  I started my speech therapy education because I wanted to work with individuals with autism.  My brother, who we now know has Dandy-Walker syndrome, grew up with symptoms very much like autism:  speech delay, echolalia, delay in pragmatic skills, etc. We later learned, after I graduated with my degree fueled by my passion for autism, that he has Dandy-Walker syndrome that went undetected on his childhood assessments.  Regardless of the change, I love working with children diagnosed with autism and find each child so beautifully unique.

I based my undergraduate and graduate education around autism.  I volunteered at Autism Speaks events, I volunteered for a camp for individuals with autism (the amazing Camp Encourage), I became a part of the autism community...I surrounded myself with something that I was and am very passionate about.  I did end up going into a Skilled Nursing Facility position immediately after graduating.  I loved working with the geriatric population, but I am so excited to now say that I am working with my original passion, autism, via DotCom Therapy.  It’s like a coming home party.  I’m back in my comfort zone and back where I belong. It is good to be home, friends.

I am beyond excited for where the future is going with telepractice. I think that individuals with autism will benefit greatly from this added modality of receiving therapy services.  I always knew that I wanted to make a difference in the autism community and now I know that DotCom Therapy is going to do that.

Here are some of the reasons telepractice can benefit individuals with autism and parents of children with autism:   

Teletherapy can provide flexible therapy. 

Here’s my favorite thing about working with DotCom Therapy, there is no 9-5 time restriction. If you need your child to be seen at an earlier time or a later time, that can be arranged. Also, therapy can take place in the home environment. Let’s say that your main goal as a parent is to get your child with autism to make requests during meals. The iPad, laptop, etc.can be placed at the dinner table and that speech therapist can directly target those communicative opportunities. Therapy is flexible and is based off of your schedule and based around your needs.

Teletherapy can provide parent training and is individualized.

Teletherapy allows for the parents to be as involved as they want to be. The therapist can provide direct parent training, or they can provide indirect training by having the parent be a facilitator in the room during therapy. This gives parents an opportunity to assist in developing goals and in achieving the desired outcomes.

On that note, teletherapy can use a "store and forward" approach.

A "store and forward", or "lock and load", approach is where the family records real life situations that the child is having difficulty communicating in, e.g. bed time, and the therapist can review it and gives suggestions. Again, just another way to treat communicative deficits secondary to autism in a functional, flexible way.

Individuals with autism often respond well to computer based intervention. 

Often times having the therapy provided via the computer/iPad/iPhone is less intimidating for an individual with autism, therefore there is often an increase in interaction and participation with therapy. Technology can also be very motivating. (My son will do any chore for iPad time.) Computer based intervention may be the best modality for therapy for certain children, young adults, or adults on the spectrum and may result in reaching the desired outcomes and goals quicker.

You may want additional speech therapy. 

Often school speech therapy, as valuable as it is, doesn’t feel like it’s enough. However, it’s difficult to fit additional amounts of speech therapy into a busy schedule. The flexibility of teletherapy will help individuals with autism receive the desired amount of therapy.

School districts and children with autism may not always have access to speech therapists. 

I am very fortunate to live next to a large city with a variety of resources for children on the autism spectrum. However, there are school districts and individuals in rural areas that do not have quick access to therapists and services. School districts can also utilize teletherapy as a way to provide therapy to qualifying students. As DotCom Therapy’s motto says, "Making therapy available to everyone, everywhere."

Evidence-Based Practice can be carried out via teletherapy. 

A skilled speech therapist can provide evidence-based therapy just as any other therapist can. If a child is non-verbal and would benefit from Alternative Communication, a speech therapist can teach sign language, set up a Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) Board, etc all via teletherapy. It is important to remember that the services are the same but the mode is different.

As I said earlier, I am really excited for my future. I am very passionate and believe telepractice is another way to get individuals with autism the help they need in a convenient and flexible way. If you want additional information on this topic, please feel free to contact DotCom Therapy at (844) 536-8266.