Using Teletherapy for Behavior Analysis in the COVID Crisis

When schools shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we all had to adapt to using teletherapy for Behavioral Health service delivery. But, you are doing it—and doing it well! 

School-based clinician using teletherapy for behavior analysis wears headphones and smiles and waves at student on laptop screen.No one knows exactly how the ongoing pandemic will shape the new school year. But, it’s a safe bet teletherapy will keep playing a big part in school-based Behavioral Health.

Here at Pediatric Therapeutic Services (PTS), we’re watching you rise to the occasion. We couldn’t be prouder to share this space with you!

We wanted to address some anxieties, share some resources, and offer encouragement as we all navigate this uncertain, still-changing situation.

Take a Breath and Take Care of Your Own Mental Health

We are used to helping kids cope with “big feelings.” But, we need to acknowledge our own, including our anxiety.

We may be anxious about:

  • The health crisis itself, and what it means for the students we serve.
  • The continuity of the services we provide.
  • The possibility we might get sick.

Naming your anxieties is important for your mental health. Then take a breath, let go of expectations, and be as flexible as you teach your students to be. 

You may not have every detail of how you’ll use teletherapy for Behavioral Health services sorted out yet. But, acknowledging the behavior programs you’re used to leading and implementing in school settings won’t look the same as socially-distanced video conferences is a step in the right direction.

Train Students’ Families in Behavioral Therapy

It’s time to unleash that pent-up creativity we’ve wanted to let fly for so long!

The current situation is a prime time to focus on:

  • Maintaining and generalizing students’ previously acquired skills.
  • Acquisition of new skills.
  • Parent training through consultation, video modeling, and resource sharing.

If the coronavirus crisis has a silver lining, it’s the fact we can spend more time connecting with students’ parents and families and helping them become amazing interventionists.

Be conscious of families’ mental health. They’re resilient, but they’re also looking for practical, real-life strategies for managing their children’s challenging behaviors. 

Many colleagues and I have spent hours brainstorming how best to transfer critical therapy skills to students’ families. We always joked it would be great to be the proverbial “fly on the wall,” collecting the data we need to guide our decisions and unify plans across all environments. Now is our chance!

Use Resources to Plan and Deliver Remote Services

Here are some of my favorite teletherapy resources for behavior analysis, arranged by category:

Reinforcement

Virtual Token Board

Reward students by adding favorite images and sounds when they demonstrate target behaviors.

123TokenMe 

The app costs $10.99 but is worth it! Screen share it to use its interactive features. 

Social/Emotional Learning

Visual Schedules and Social Stories

This app helps students follow daily routines, respond to ambiguous situations, and build new social skills.

Social Story Creator

Design social stories appropriate to your students’ situations by uploading text, photos, and audio.

Social Skills Games

Single and multiplayer games make learning and practicing social skills more fun.

Data Collection

Online Data Collection Links

Peruse this Pinterest collection of apps designed to make gathering data easier, curated by Ron DeMusey, BCBA.

Central Reach

This app automates routine data collection and other clinical documentation.

ABA Teamwork

Use your smartphone to gather and share data about students, and to customize data-collection forms.

School-based clinician using teletherapy for behavior analysis leans over her laptop, looking pensive with chin in left hand.

Stimuli Development

Boom Cards

Kids love these web-based, colorful, interactive activities you can use to target multiple therapy goals. 

How to Use Zoom and Boom Cards

Speech therapist Jen Bjorem gives therapists helpful tips for using Boom Cards in Zoom meetings.

Therapy Video Examples

Parent Training without Client Present via Telehealth

Dr. Amanda Kelly (aka “Behaviorbabe”) presents an actual parent training via video conferencing.

Telehealth and ABA

Long-time telehealth provider Tina Patterson, MEd, BCBA, LBA discusses appropriate policies and procedures, including questions of HIPAA compliance. 

ABA Telehealth Parent Training

Tatiana Francis, BCBA offers a real-life demonstration of using teletherapy for behavior analysis with a boy and his mother.

Managing Challenging Behaviors During COVID-19

Dr. Tina Lawson discusses planning, modeling, and communicating with children in this presentation from the Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (PaTTAN).

CEU Opportunities and Current Research

Practical Applications—Telehealth and ABA 

This on-demand webinar focuses on academic research about, and practical examples of, teletherapy.

Maintaining Treatment Integrity in the Face of a Crisis: A Treatment Selection Model for Transitioning Direct ABAB Services to Telehealth

This paper explores behavior analysts’ “unprecedented opportunity” to prove teletherapy can maintain treatment integrity and produce meaningful outcomes. 

A Proposed Process for Risk Mitigation During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The authors explain how using teletherapy for behavior analysis helps keep clients and their families safe. 

Recognize Your Potential to Pioneer Future Behavioral Health Delivery

We’re all (and I mean ALL) trying to figure this urgent and intense situation out as we go. I hope we’ll take this opportunity to share the struggle and support our clinical community like never before.  

Communication, resource sharing, and constant collaboration are essential. If we let them, these less-than-ideal circumstances can offer incredible value to our field.  

PTS has compiled a library of resources specifically geared toward teletherapy implementation. Take a look at our ideas and strategies and be sure to contact us and share yours.

After all, you’re part of a pioneer-crisis plan. You will shape the way we implement behavior analysis in the future!

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