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Is Teletherapy Right for You? It Was for Our Family!

It all started in March 2020. When the pandemic hit, the Governor issued a stay-at-home order, and what started out as a novelty became the new norm. Being a mom to an adult son with autism, I knew the change was going to affect Eric, but I am forever grateful for the benefits teletherapy continues to bring to him.

What is teletherapy? It is therapy that is conducted over a secure video connection, provided by a licensed and certified therapist. There is no travel needed for this type of therapy and during the pandemic, it may be something for families to consider. All that is needed is a video connection and a comfortable space to “virtually” meet.

Anxiety is certainly an emotion that my son, Eric, and our family deal with every day of our lives. In mid-March, my son’s anxiety levels were extremely high, as were mine. Covid-19 had altered our lives completely. Our “normal” schedule was gone. Community outings halted, and all in-person staffing for Eric ceased. We had to create a new daily routine for our family. Little by little we created a new “normal,” but still Eric’s anxiety levels were elevated. We talked about our concerns with Eric’s psychologist, Vijaya Tangella (or VJ, as we call her), from the Tammy Lynn Center. VJ has been a central part of our medical team, supporting us for over 15 years with behavioral consultative services. VJ wondered if we might consider teletherapy/counseling for Eric. I was apprehensive, because in the past we tried in-person talk therapy/counseling and it was never beneficial to Eric. VJ mentioned she had a co-worker, named Erin Garrett, whom she felt would be a good fit for Eric. I was very reluctant, but for Eric’s sake I agreed to try.

In preparation for our very first telehealth therapy session in April, I explained to Eric that we were going to virtually meet with VJ’s friend, Erin. I reassured him that Erin was a sweet lady and she wanted to get to know us. Eric and I talked about all the places that we could set-up his iPad for our virtual meeting with Erin. He could choose to meet either at his desk, the kitchen table, dining room, porch, or even on his bed. Eric loves to be given choices and he immediately replied that he wanted us both to sit on his bed for the meeting.

Since April, we have been meeting Erin for teletherapy sessions on his iPad twice a week. Though we are not entertaining family or friends in our home during Covid-19, we all look forward to sharing time with Erin during these virtual sessions. We have seen tremendous growth in Eric’s development, especially in the areas of self-regulation, willingness to take on a challenge, and ability to use an “I statement” to share his feelings. Teletherapy has proven to be a wonderful experience for Eric and our family. Our trust in Erin grew much more rapidly because our relationship started in a safe and comfortable place, my son’s bedroom.

Teletherapy may not be a good fit for everyone but it certainly has been a wonderful addition to Eric’s care and for our family. It has exceeded all my expectations.

 

Resources to find a therapist:

 

Resources to help families determine if teletherapy is appropriate:

 

Nancy LaCross, an ASNC Autism Resource Specialist in the Raleigh area, can be contacted at nlacross@autismsociety-nc.org

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