Billy is a 2.6-year-old boy who presented for evaluation in the developmental-behavioral pediatrics (DBP) clinic 2 weeks before the onset of pandemic-related clinic restrictions. Billy had received early intervention for the past year because of speech and fine motor delays. Billy's parents requested the evaluation in the DBP clinic because his delayed speech and disruptive behaviors had raised concern that he may have autism spectrum disorder. Owing to the onset of the pandemic, subsequent visits were completed through telehealth with a developmental-behavioral pediatrician, psychologist, behavioral clinician, and social workers who developed a collaborative plan of care. Billy was diagnosed with global developmental delay, significant tantrums, and impulsivity but did not meet the criteria for autism spectrum disorder.
Billy lives with his parents and 2 sisters in a rural area, 3 hours from the DBP clinic. Both of his parents have been treated for depression in the past and reported that school was difficult for them. His sisters, ages 5 and 6 years, receive speech/language therapy but have not required additional special education services. His family has endured recent stressors including a flooding event that caused significant damage to their home, financial difficulties, and the recent unexpected death of a close family member. Billy's disruptive behaviors have resulted in difficulty finding and maintaining child care, further contributing to parental stress and dysfunction in the home.
Despite assistance from the social worker, additional developmental and behavioral support services near the family's home were not identified. Therefore, services were offered to Billy and his parents through telehealth. Billy's parents began behavioral parent training with a clinician embedded within the DBP clinic and, with direct support from his parents, Billy began receiving supplemental speech/language and occupational therapies through telehealth. Through recurrent engagement with Billy's parents and frequent communication among the behavioral clinician, developmental-behavioral pediatrician, psychologist, and social worker, Billy was able to make significant developmental progress, and his parents reported improved ability to manage his difficult behaviors.
How can telehealth be used to help families navigate complex systems and obtain optimal care and support?