Remote Service Delivery and Distance LearningUpdated September 14, 2020, 10:11 AM
A number of states are providing remote service delivery as an alternate and effective way to serve young children with developmental delays and disabilities at home with their families, especially during the COVID-19 public health emergency. We have compiled information for state's early intervention Part C and early childhood special education IDEA Part B Section 619 programs– including technology and privacy, reimbursement, provider and educator use of technology, family resources, state guidance and resources, and research.
We use the term remote service delivery and distance learning to describe the methodology used as an alternative to providing services and supports to young children and families in person. However, other terms may be used by states, funding sources and professional organizations. Some of those terms are:
- remote early intervention
- remote learning
- virtual home visits
- virtual learning
Regardless of the terms used, this methodology primarily engages audio or video technology to connect providers and educator with parents or other caregivers in ways that support their child's learning and development throughout their daily activities and routines. But it can also include low-tech options, such as delivering instruction via a packet dropped off at the child's home. Providers and educators use a coaching approach to help parent(s), caregiver(s) and sometimes siblings to embed strategies that promote the child's learning and development.
Telehealth is the most common term when it comes to reimbursement under Medicaid and private health insurance plans.
"Telehealth is a collection of means or methods for enhancing health care, public health and health education delivery and support using telecommunications technologies.
Telehealth encompasses a broad variety of technologies and tactics to deliver virtual medical, health, and education services. Telehealth is not a specific service, but a collection of means to enhance care and education delivery."
Resources from Professional Associations
The following professional associations most directly tied to the provision of early childhood IDEA services have the compiled resources and guidance regarding the provision of remote service delivery.
Looking for information on whether you can use telehealth in your state and how to incorporate it into practice? AOTA has gathered the resources below to help members navigate this emerging area.
Telehealth, the use of electronic communication to remotely provide health care information and services, is gaining more and more attention as providers, patients, and payers all seek more effective and cost-efficient ways to deliver care. Physical therapy is no exception, and while those services have developed mostly in rural areas to accommodate the long distances between patients and providers, telehealth in physical therapy is being considered in other geographic and clinical settings.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA): COVID-19: ASHA Web Event Series on Service Delivery Considerations in Early Intervention
As so many of our day-to-day activities changed seemingly overnight in response to COVID-19, early intervention (EI) providers have found themselves facing new professional challenges. ASHA has heard many complex, wide-ranging questions and concerns regarding service delivery for infants, toddlers, and their families during this time. ASHA developed a series of recorded web chats to address the specific needs of those who operate or work in Part C EI programs or other EI practices.
Division Of Early Childhood (DEC) of the Council for Exceptional Children: Resources to Support EI/ECSE During the COVID-19 Outbreak
This webpage features blogs, videos, webinars, articles and other resources that support early intervention and early childhood special education during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Additional Resources on Telehealth and Telepractice
Use of Tele-Intervention in Early Intervention (IDEA Part C): Strategies for Providing Services Under the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency
This webinar explores Part C policy and infrastructure issues for states to consider addressing in order to establish and fund early intervention through video-based tele-intervention, including:
- Funding Opportunities: Medicaid and private insurance
- Privacy Issues: HIPAA and FERPA
- Consent from families (What is needed?)
- Video Conferencing: Technology and Considerations
The good news is that barriers and challenges are less than some may think and a number of states have experience in delivering effective services through tele-intervention that we can learn from.
- Planning for the Use of Video Conferencing for Early Intervention Home Visits during the COVID-19 Pandemic (Larry Edelman, 2020) suggests key topics to be addressed and provides information and resources to assist in planning how to use video conferencing for home visiting.
- State Medicaid and CHIP Telehealth Toolkit Policy Considerations for States Expanding Use of Telehealth-COVID-19 Version (CMS, 2020) helps states identify policies that may impede the rapid deployment of telehealth when providing care. It provides issues for states to consider as they evaluate the need to expand their telehealth capabilities and coverage policies, such as telehealth eligibility for patient populations, providers and practitioners; coverage and reimbursement policies; technology requirements; and pediatric considerations.
The Office for the Advancement of Telehealth (OAT) promotes the use of telehealth technologies for health care delivery, education, and health information services. Telehealth is especially critical in rural and other remote areas that lack sufficient health care services, including specialty care.
These twelve Telehealth Resource Centers (TRCs) support all states and territories. TRCs have been established to provide assistance, education, and information to organizations and individuals who are actively providing or interested in providing health care at a distance. Their charter from the Office for Advancement of Telehealth is to help expand the availability of health care to rural and underserved populations.
Equitably Serving Children with Disabilities and their Families during Coronavirus (COVID-19) (ECTA Center)
This page contains four guiding equity statements along with questions to guide the discussion of equitable early intervention and preschool special education for young children with disabilities and their families among system leaders, administrators, and teachers or direct service providers.
COVID-19 Pandemic Resources and Support (The Great Lakes Equity Center)
This page contains equity considerations for distance and online learning. These resources support equity work during the pandemic, and offer pandemic-specific articles, activity pages, manuals to help users navigate this new and evolving learning landscape.
This infographic outlines five equity ideas for practitioners to consider when designing distance learning products.
Teletherapy Has Been Powering Virtual Special Education for Years (The Hechinger Report)
The Hechinger Report focuses on inequality and innovation in education. This article provides a look at how teletherapy has been used successfully for years to deliver online special education services. Teletherapy can help maintain a level of continuity in children's lives during this time of upheaval.