How does virtual ABA therapy work?

With the end of the pandemic in sight, a lot of people are wondering if virtual ABA therapy will remain a therapy option. This post will explain what virtual ABA therapy is, how it works and some things to consider before registering your child.

Virtual vs in-person:

What is virtual ABA Therapy?

Simply put, virtual ABA therapy is ABA therapy where the sessions occur with the therapist in one location and the client in another and they’re both using a computer to communicate. Most other elements of virtual ABA are the same as in-person therapy.

The principles of ABA therapy don’t change when you’re virtual. The main elements of good therapy are:

  • Frequent assessment and evaluation
  • Reinforcement
  • Shaping
  • Prompting and prompt fading
  • Task analysis and chaining

How does virtual ABA therapy work?

For some children, virtual therapy will look very similar to in person therapy. If the child is working on academic tasks (literacy or numeracy based skills, for example) the sessions would be the same. However, if the child has difficulty attending, the therapist might need an in person supporter to prompt the child.

Some children require shorter sessions when they’re taking place virtually. It can be difficult for the child to focus on the screen and not be distracted by other stimuli in their environment. The therapist has much less control in a virtual session as they’re not able to physically prompt the child. This means that sometimes the expectations need to be altered to accommodate. For example, the schedule of reinforcement might need to be thickened (aka increased), to keep the child motivated and attending.

One of the benefits of virtual therapy is that there is no traveling required, so you don’t have to fight your child to get into the car!

Boy sitting at a desk with a tablet doing virtual ABA Therapy.

Is virtual therapy right for your child?

Things to consider before virtual therapy:

  • Does the therapist have experience delivering virtual therapy?
    • While the principles of ABA remain the same, the therapist will be using different tools and should also have a good grasp of the technology they’re using (Zoom, Teams, Google Meet).
  • What will the goals of therapy be?
    • As always, virtual therapy goals should be based on a thorough skills assessment.
    • The goals should be flexible taking the new teaching style into account.
    • Include mastery and revision criteria for each goal.
  • How long will the sessions be?
    • Having shorter more frequent sessions might be ideal for your child.
  • Do you have reliable technology?
    • You will need a computer or a tablet with a camera and a mic.
    • You will also need a stable high speed internet connection.
  • Does your child require a prompter to sit with them?
    • Some children can be entirely independent for the entire session while some need support setting up the technology. Others still require a prompter for the entire session.
    • Does the prompter need ABA training?

Virtual therapy was a lifesaver for many families during Covid19. However, many were not able to access virtual services because they were not appropriate for their child. Hopefully virtual therapy will continue to be available for those clients who benefit from it. Learn more about Side by Side Therapy’s virtual ABA program today.

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