We asked our community to send in their questions for Cortica's Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Suzanne Goh. Covering telehealth, COVID-19, and more, we are pleased to share the following video with you.

Questions on Telehealth

The first question comes from a parent who has done several telehealth sessions already with our team. They write: "What I'm finding, after having done several telehealth sessions with my son, is that I'm so much more aware of what he's doing and learning in his various therapies, and able to implement these at home. In just a week, we've seen some pretty impressive progress in his speech. Is there a plan to incorporate more parent participation in the program? It seems like this is a key component currently missing."

The answer to that question is a resounding yes. We've had that reaction from many parents. The setup of a telehealth session means that a parent or caregiver in the home is actively participating in the session and providing guidance and support to the child while the therapist provides direction. That format is perfect for parent learning and participation. Based on our telehealth experience so far, we think that, even after we reopen clinics and resume all center-based and in-home services, we will still want telehealth services to be a component of every child's therapy program.

There are some really unique advantages to telehealth services. The biggest advantage, by far, is the increased engagement and involvement of the family member, whether that's a parent, grandparent, other caregiver, or sibling. This means that the telehealth session is strengthening the relationship between the child and the family member at the same time that it is empowering and educating the family member and building skills in the child. All of those add up to really meaningful impact with positive ripple effects that go far beyond the therapy session itself. Some children even respond better to a therapist when they're coming through a computer, tablet, or phone.

The next question is from a parent whose son was just diagnosed with autism last month. The parent wants to know how to start ABA as quickly as possible. The answer is that we can start ABA right away. The process begins by getting an authorization from your insurance provider so that we can conduct an assessment. The complete ABA assessment can be done online through telehealth. It doesn't require in-person contact. And, nearly all insurance providers are now including telehealth ABA assessment and treatment as a covered service. So, please call our office right away and the ABA team at your nearest Cortica center will begin the process for you.

Questions on How to Start Therapies

The next set of questions were from parents wanting to know how to start occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, or music therapy with us. For anyone who would like to start these therapies, we can schedule an evaluation within the next couple of weeks. The evaluation and ongoing treatment for all of these therapies can be done very effectively through telehealth. So, just call our office to set up a time.

Telehealth services don't replicate in-person services 100%. There are some things that can't be done as well, but then there are other things that can be done even better than in-person. For many of our children, technology is an even more comfortable way of interacting with others, so the engagement and participation can be even better. And, for children who might not be able to engage as effectively through telehealth or who need touch prompts or in-person guidance, the family member who's facilitating the session will learn so much about the techniques and strategies that our team uses and why we use them. They can carry that knowledge into all parts of the child's day and their routine.

One parent asks specifically about music therapy sessions with Michele Hardy, and I can understand why you'd ask. Michele is truly a spectacular therapist. You do have the opportunity to work with her, but she would be acting as the supervisor of your child's ongoing therapists. So, she would be in some sessions as a supervisor, but not in all sessions. Another advantage of telehealth sessions is that they allow for more frequent supervision by our clinical leaders, who can dial in from any location.

Questions on COVID-19

One parent asked how I think California is doing in our response and the actions we're taking. My response is that I think, given the situation that we're faced with - with the shortage of tests, supplies, and equipment - our state is responding in the right way. We know that staying at home and maintaining social distance as much as possible is the right thing to do. We also know that this is taking a toll on our economy. So, if we can practice social distancing, stay at home as much as possible, and still provide jobs and essential services, then we're doing the right thing. This is the reason that we've invested so much in developing our telehealth capabilities as quickly as possible: so that our team can continue to do what they do so exceptionally well and so that Cortica's families can continue to receive the services that are so important for developmental progress and wellbeing. If you want your favorite therapists to be here when our centers reopen, you can help make that happen by continuing to work with them through telehealth during this time of social distancing.

Some families have asked when our centers will reopen and how we can provide in-center services and be confident that we won't get others sick. I'm grateful for those questions and to know that you want us to open our doors again. We want the same thing. Because we're a healthcare services provider, we are permitted to continue providing in-person services. But, our ethical code as healthcare professionals requires that we think about all potential risks to our clients - both of providing services and of not providing services. It's our obligation to consider all these risks and to do what's best for our clients. This is the reason we've invested so heavily in developing our telehealth capabilities: so that we can still provide the benefits of therapy and take away the risk of transmitting COVID-19.

Finally, I received some really beautiful messages from you all that brought tears to my eyes. Some parents asked: "What can we do to support your therapists and office staff? All members of the Cortica team have been amazing. How do we give back to you?" I can tell you that everyone at Cortica takes pride in being a caregiver. We're all here to serve. So, when you ask how you can take care of us, it's so touching. There's nothing that matters more to us than to know we've made a positive difference in your life. So, if you have the opportunity to tell your therapist, your medical provider, your scheduler, or anyone on our team that they've made a difference for your child or family, that's the best gift you can give us.

Thank you so much for tuning in to this first fireside chat. We look forward to seeing you at our next one.