Julie McIsaac
July 21, 2021

Telehealth for children with disabilities: what you need to know

What does telehealth look like for children with special needs or disabilities? Your child may be able to work with a doctor, ABA provider, or mental health , or speech therapist online and make progress without having to leave home.

Since March 2020, our lives have moved online.  Schools closed, and many of our kids missed out on services and supports they had been getting through the school system. Many providers moved to telehealth care. This created new opportunities –but what does this mean for children with disabilities as we emerge from the pandemic?  Here are some answers to your questions. 

What is telehealth?

Telehealth means you use a computer or phone to access healthcare services without leaving your house.  During quarantine, many providers started to offer their services through telehealth in order to make healthcare accessible and safe.  

Does my provider offer telehealth?

Many providers now offer telehealth.  If you need to speak to a doctor or therapist about your child’s health or services, call the office and they will tell you about your options.  Telehealth can also include therapy appointments that you need to schedule for your child. This includes services like occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech and language therapy, mental health (including play therapy) or behavioral therapy (like ABA).  

What if my child won’t participate?

It’s true that this can be a challenge! But providers who work with children are often very skilled at engaging children who have short attention spans or who do not want to participate.

You would be amazed at how much providers can accomplish this way – and you don’t need to put gas in the car or wrestle anyone into their car seat. 

Check out our free video series to hear providers talk about how you can manage speech therapy, mental health counseling, ABA, and occupational therapy at home. (Looking for information on getting these services at school or in the community? Check out these videos).

What does it look like?

Consultations or appointments can be done over the phone or by video conference. Your provider will give you instructions for how to log in and access the appointment. Their goal is to make it as easy as possible for you to receive care, so don’t be afraid to ask questions.  

Therapists are getting creative when it comes to how to use a video platform to meet people’s needs. (Check out how this Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP) played virtual Candyland via Zoom!)  You can reach out to your therapist ahead of the appointment to clarify expectations. Some questions to ask are:

  • What should we have prepared for the session? Do I need to gather items ahead of time? 

  • How can I (as the parent) support the session? How will I be involved? (check in at beginning and end or should I plan to participate in the full session?) 

  • How long do you expect the session to last? 

  • What are our goals? 

  • Will you be working directly with my child or will you be focused on trying to teach me how to do some of this at home? 

Will insurance cover it?

If your child was receiving services covered by insurance before the pandemic, those sessions may still be covered even though the service delivery has changed. Some insurance companies are covering computer calls but not phone appointments, so make sure to check with your insurance plan to make sure services are covered.  

Looking for a specific provider?

Check out our resource directory for Louisiana and Massachusetts.

  • Julie McIsaac, Ph.D.

    Child Development and Disability Advisor

    Julie specializes in working with children and families with diverse developmental profiles She uses reflective practice, emotion-coaching, play and a relationship-based framework to support skill building in the areas of emotional-regulation and problem-solving. Julie consults with families, schools and community organizations. As a parent, she understands the need to have a cohesive team supporting a child and family.

    Profile Photo of Julie McIsaac
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