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How can I help my child who has autism spectrum disorder take part in telehealth visits?

​Kristin Sohl, MD, FAAP


Telehealth visits can be a helpful part of your child's ongoing medical care. Because regular visits and therapy may require time away from work and school, using a video or phone call can be a beneficial, convenient, and fun way to check-in from anywhere.

But keep in mind that just like it can be hard for some children to sit in a doctor's office for a visit, it can be even harder to sit through a telehealth appointment and talk. Preparing for the visit ahead of time can make it easier for your child to participate and help the visit go smoothly.

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Preparing your child for a video telehealth visit

Telehealth visits allow your child to take part in all or part of the visit while they play or relax. Talk with your pediatrician about which parts of the visit they would like your child in and when your child can take breaks. Share tips with the pediatrician about ways to communicate with your child that you've found work well!

Some other tips to help prepare your child for a telehealth visit:

  • Let them bring their favorite toy, stuffed animal, book, pictures, activity or other item with them to show their doctor.

  • Show your child what to expect beforehand. Seeing the doctor via telehealth is new for most of us and having an idea about what will happen can be helpful.

  • Tell them that they will see their doctor on the computer or phone screen.

  • Point out that they can talk and show things to the doctor just like in person.

  • Try using tools like social stories or visual schedules or simple first/then boards to help your child know what to expect with a telehealth visit. Ask your doctor if they have these or other tools.

Preparing yourself and your space

  • If possible, practice logging on to the telehealth program before your appointment to make sure it works. Staff in the pediatrician's office may also be available to do this with you.

  • Double check your equipment including the camera, microphone and internet connection so they are working and ready when it's time for the appointment.

  • If you or your child need accommodations, call the pediatrician's office to request an interpreter service or communication assistance.

  • Think ahead about where you want to be with your child for the appointment so that you are comfortable sharing medical information with the doctor.

  • Please be safe. Do not drive during a telehealth appointment. If you are in the car, make sure the car is parked and you can safely talk to the doctor.

  • This appointment is like all doctor's appointments, so be sure to have your child with you since it is their appointment.

  • Be sure to make notes of stories or examples of your child's progress to share and have your questions ready.

  • Connect with your child's medical home team or their specialists. It's best when you and your child see the same doctor on a regular basis who knows your child and is familiar with their needs.

Deciding what's best for your child

Regular visits to the doctor are important for children with autism spectrum disorder. Checking in on important topics like school, friends, progress toward goals, and medical and behavioral concerns need to happen frequently. These visits help you, your child and your pediatrician make decisions together. They help build a trusting partnership to guide your child toward their best health.

It's important to talk with your pediatrician about how you and your child like to be seen for medical care. This will help you decide when the right time is for an in-person visit or a telehealth visit. Talk about safety (COVID-19, wandering, running away), need for a physical exam, vital signs, costs associated with travel or missed work, and other individual circumstances.

You and your pediatrician can celebrate successes in your telehealth visits. Together, you can work as partners to guide your child in both in-person and telehealth visits.

More information

This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $6,000,000 with no percentage financed with nongovernmental sources. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.

​Kristin Sohl, MD, FAAP

​Kristin Sohl, MD, FAAP, is a member of the of the AAP Council on Children with Disabilities Autism Subcommittee and a member of the Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs Subcommittee for the AAP HRSA funded project, “Supporting Providers and Families to Access Telehealth and Distant Care Services for Pediatric Care.” Dr. Sohl is a professor of pediatrics at the University of Missouri School of Medicine and is a pediatrician who practices developmental/behavioral pediatrics. She serves as the as Medical Director for Missouri Telehealth Network and is the Founder and Executive Director of Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) Autism. She is the president of the Missouri Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics.​

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American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2021)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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