ABA providers who have been or will be implementing telehealth services with families who have a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may wonder if involving the child is possible within the context of virtual treatment sessions.

Is it possible to provide ABA to children via telehealth services?

The answer is yes!

Well, really, it depends.

Mostly it depends on

  • the clinical and technological skills of the telehealth service provider,
  • the resources and preferences of the parent of the child with ASD,
  • and how the child’s behaviors (skills) or potential abilities allow for their engagement with the technology and social interaction involved in telehealth services.

7 Telehealth Activities to Use with Children with ASD

It is possible to incorporate most children with autism spectrum disorder in the telehealth session. Below are a few suggestions for activities that can be used which would be facilitated by the service provider and engaged in by the child.

The child’s parent would likely be monitoring the child’s behaviors and giving assistance at varying levels depending on the needs of the child.

  • To give parents more guidance on managing behaviors, increasing instructional control, and learning other effective behavioral strategies, consider using the resources found within the One-Year ABA Parent Training Curriculum.

As with any intervention, it is important to individualize your services, but exploring ideas for activities can help you to develop activities that you can use with your clients.

Note: Some activities will require that the family already has the materials available in their home or they are provided with the necessary materials to complete the activity.

1. Lego Challenge

The service provider can direct the child to create a specified structure with Legos. The direction may be given with verbal instructions alone or a visual can be provided with a simple image displayed for the child to model.

This can work on a variety of skills, such as visual motor skills, fine motor skills, and following directions.

Receptive language skills can be incorporated into this activity such as by asking the child to use a certain color of block (i.e. “Use the green blocks to build a tree.”)

Expressive language skills can be incorporated by having the child talk about what he builds and giving more detail.

2. Fun with Parents

The telehealth service provider is in a great position to observe the parent-child interactions.

It can be helpful for the service provider to give the parent a training on relationship building (also known as rapport building or pairing). After this training, the provider can observe and help to guide a pairing session between the parent and the child.

The provider can take note of things the parent does well and things the parent could improve upon and then follow up later (preferably without the child present) with this feedback.

3. Screen Share Flash Cards

If the telehealth provider has the ability to share their screen with the receiver of the telehealth services, it can be helpful to share their screen with the child with specific learning targets being displayed.

Whether the child is working on tacting common objects, math facts, or matching, using this method can help the child work on these more discrete trial type of targets.

4. Text with Teens

If the telehealth provider’s software allows for a HIPAA compliant texting option, some teens may actually enjoy communicating through text.

This can work on communication skills in a variety of ways including engaging in a conversation, talking about another person’s interests, discussing social skills, teaching “coping” mechanisms, and more.

5. Simon Says

Simon Says is a game that can be easily incorporated into telehealth sessions. This game works on following directions, social skills, communication skills, and more.

The child and the service provider can take turns being the person who gives the instructions.

6. Paper-Pencil Activities (Coloring, Worksheets, etc.)

This activity would require that parents prepare the tangible items ahead of time. Doing things like coloring or worksheets can be completed in a similar way that they would be completed in a face-to-face session and can work on whatever skill is appropriate for that activity.

7. Video Lessons

This activity could use screen sharing in that the telehealth provider could locate and play the video or the child/parent can play a video as instructed by the telehealth provider.

Videos can be anything related to the child’s treatment goals.

Video modeling is an evidence-based intervention for children with autism spectrum disorder so this is a great option for helping improve skills.

Reinforcement: Reinforcing Engagement with Telehealth Activities

It is important that telehealth providers identify an appropriate reinforcement system for supporting a child’s engagement in telehealth activities as well as successful responses.

Reinforcement systems may include token economies, praise, video game access, tangible items provided by the parents, or whatever is appropriate for the child and family.

Remember that for some children, engagement with and compliance with telehealth directed activities, may need to be shaped and reinforced in order to get to an ideal state.