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Hi there! I’m Christina, a mom of two littles, a licensed mental health therapist, and a children’s book author! Thanks for checking out my site. Look around! I’m sure there’s something here for you! This guest post, written by Rose Jenna, is about what mamas need to know about telehealth for kids with special needs

Parents of children with special needs face unique challenges in raising them, and among these challenges are health services. About one in six children are reported by the CDC to have developmental disabilities. These kids typically have more significant healthcare needs due to prevailing medical conditions, more frequent healthcare use, and a greater burden of illness in daily life. Maintaining healthcare access is especially difficult during crises like the pandemic due to mobility challenges and health risks.

But these complex factors can be addressed by telehealth. Here is what mamas need to know about using telehealth for kids with special needs. Despite being at home, via telehealth children with special needs and disabilities can still receive the same level of care thanks to online health professionals and providers. Telehealth adapts to what families and their children need throughout the continuum of care, from diagnosis and delivery to treatment and support.

Diagnosis and assessment

The need for adequate and quality health services starts at the diagnostic phase. As discussed in a previous post about ‘Identifying Speech Language Disorders’, an early diagnosis usually leads to a more appropriate intervention for your child. You can do prior research on observable signs or patterns, and a specialist can help you move forward with a series of screenings and diagnostic assessments. Telehealth plays a role in getting you in touch with a trained specialist, which is especially helpful if there is a limited number within your area. On top of finding a provider and shortening the wait time for seeing them, telehealth can utilize video conferencing and home videos as an alternative to in-person observation and behavioral checklists.

Access and delivery

Beyond diagnosis, telehealth also targets the barriers to the access and delivery of visits, consultations, and even one-off appointments. Telehealth services tend to have lower costs and can thus accommodate families with varying income levels. Care can be delivered at a distance, so parents and their children can quickly attend multiple appointments without worrying about schedules and transportation. The demand for nurse practitioners in states like Minnesota and elsewhere in the US indicates that telehealth can provide a solution when there are COVID-related staffing shortages in your area. It enables healthcare professionals to work remotely, coordinate with other health professionals, and provide comprehensive care for your child. This can yield positives for longer-term care, especially since a missed appointment due to long wait times or unavailable professionals can overwhelm the child and disrupt their care progress.

Treatment and intervention

Telehealth can come in many different forms such as text messages, phone calls, mobile apps, video conferencing, and even asynchronous submissions. As such, your child’s treatment and intervention plan can consist of a combination of these techniques to better suit their needs. For example, if your child feels more relaxed in familiar settings such as your home, you can opt for virtual therapy sessions instead. Telehealth also means that you don’t have to visit your child’s doctor to share concerns or inquire about the next steps, as you can easily do this via one-on-one audio/video call.

Support and monitoring

Ultimately, telehealth for kids with special needs is not just a one-way delivery of care from provider to patient. Your role as a parent is to collaborate with healthcare professionals so they can better communicate with your child and improve service delivery. A systematic review of telemedicine-based consultations discusses how an Ohio-based study on play-based intervention for children with Prader-Willi syndrome found that home layout complications can reduce the quality of the session. As a parent, it is thus your responsibility to make sure that the space where telehealth sessions are conducted is free from distractions, e.g. other family members, pets, background noise, and other electronic devices. If your telehealth service comes with an app for tracking and monitoring your child’s progress, make the most out of this tool so your child’s doctor would know what to discuss for the next visit.

Article contributed by Rose Jenna

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Rose Jenna is a full-time mom, but in her free time likes to write articles on parenting and child health. She also takes care of two cats and has recently been invested in urban gardening.

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Christina Furnival

Christina is a mom to two wild and wonderful kiddos, a licensed psychotherapist (LPCC), the founder of her website and therapeutic motherhood blog Real Life Mama, and a children's book author of a social/emotional wellbeing series, Capable Kiddos! She and her Scottish husband are raising their family in San Diego, where they love to hike, play soccer, cook, walk around the lake, and go to the beach.

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