The Professional Divide in Telehealth

How Behavior Analysts Missed Reaching Across the Aisle and Learning from Speech-Language Pathologists in Telehealth during COVID-19

I have not always jumped on the bandwagon of professional collaboration but YIKES! This has been really interesting and harrowing to watch. It’s like watching two sets of farmers, both dedicated to the work of food delivery for its citizens. Farmer set A is focused on a set of delivery with innovation defined as looking how their colleague places seeds in the soil for growth. And the other set, Farmer B, understands that growth means looking outside of its farm is important for sustainability…these people gather information and bring it back in for sustained growth. So when famine comes…the rain stops. Farmer B is able to continue and onboard others within its set to keep the food growing. Farmer A looks to a few within its group for support…BUT the leaders in set A decide to shift how others in Farmer set A see and perceive information and the challenge of growth and the promise thereof, evades Farmer Set A…once again.

This was the case in the lack of reaching across the aisle and acknowledging that the knowledge being sought was already, and has been present for some time. It was (is) in a different group.

I guess my frustration with collaboration is the aloof perspective that some identified leaders don’t readily or necessarily move outside of friendship circles to provide information. When we talk about diversity and our belief in it as more than a workshop topic….diveristy looks like

  • Reaching beyond friendship circles
  • Reaching beyond who we know
  • Going to other professions for leadership

COVID-19 is something that paused people. And it should give us even more pause after this is all over. We should be revisiting who we listen to and why? Who are our leaders and why? Do our leaders give us true diversity…or is it their colleague friends…and is that the criteria of who gets appointed in this online-social media-professional world of the dissemination of information.

Telehealth is not the same as physical face to face therapy. Telehealth is not something that we click on our screens and expect magic to happen. When done well…telehealth is more challenging and has a larger cognitive load on that of the deliverer of services. It is the magical use of technology, creativity in material, innovation, and the implementation of evidenced based therapy practice. Telehealth is not for everyone…clients and clinicians alike. Yes there should be a space for people to Build Repertoires and Yes there Should be conversation-teaching-learning for learning from all those that actually do this and have done this. Yes it is a space for collaboration professionally. And finally like most things, requires wisdom in leadership to say “Hey I don’t know this…but this person does.”

There were so many questions about “How Do We Do This?” in the world of behavior analysis…but there were few leads in the direction of Innovation. Change in the infrastructure and what we hold as models of implementation have to be revisited in the world of Teletherapy. Why? Because they are NOT the same. There are questions we should be asking ourselves and each other.

  • Who’s already doing this?
  • How can we learn from them?
  • What can they teach us?

Instead, the wisdom of those we recognize did not lead the profession to going across the aisle. We, instead, looked within our own backyards. And not only that, assumed that our lack of familiarity with people (those not in our professional friend group) was very much aligned with the lack of knowledge in this space of technology and service delivery.

There was a time when all of this technology stuff was put in the unethical category in ABA. I felt much of that in Michigan when I began using telehealth and am glad I stayed the course and shifted mindsets. I saw the same happen in Speech-Language Pathology with the early work of Diana Christiana in telehealth.

In the words of my grandmother and the older woman in Trader Joe’s , there is absolutely nothing new under the sun. Learn from this and Be Innovative. Here are a few resources from people who have done this and some guidelines in Telehealth supported by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association.

Keep Learning and Keep Reimagining ABA

Landria Seals Green,MA., CCC-SLP,BCBA

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

One response to “The Professional Divide in Telehealth”

  1. Glad I found your blog! I was wondering how ABA was doing with this shift. I look forward to the creativity and collaboration that will come out of this once the dust settles. 🤞🤞 I’ve learned so much from my BCBA colleagues.

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