Welcome to the May edition of Ask Dr. Emily!

We often receive questions that we want to share with all our readers. To help with this,  Dr. Emily Rastall, a clinical psychologist at Seattle Children’s Autism Center, will share insights in a question and answer format.

We welcome you to send us your questions and Dr. Rastall will do her best to answer them each month. Send your questions to [email protected].

Q: My insurance now covers Telehealth, how do I if this is a good fit for my child? What type of visits can I have through telehealth?

A: First, let me start by telling readers a little bit about “telehealth.” Telehealth refers to the provision of services via electronic means like video or phone; that means that patients might be at home or in another city, while their treatment provider is in a clinic across town or across the county or state. Telehealth was developed to increase access to care, like for those who are not able to get to a clinic (easily or at all) or for those where there is not a clinic nearby to visit (like in rural areas).

Now back to your question. The short answer? It depends. Telehealth is not a fit in all scenarios, and not all providers use it. Recently, though, telehealth has been more often covered by insurance, and its popularity with providers is gaining momentum. Services, such as psychotherapy, behavioral therapy, case consultation, parent training or classes, or medication management might be offered via telehealth, depending on the case.

To summarize, while telehealth is not offered universally (yet), it is gaining in its popularity given the increase in access it can provide. The bottom line: If you are interested in telehealth, ask your providers if they provide telehealth and ask them if they think your case would be appropriate for this service. You might also double check with your insurance to be sure that this service is covered.

Q: How can a family assess a family member with ASD for driving readiness?

A: Driving readiness considerations are going to be unique to each individual with ASD and will range according to a number of factors (see below). You will want to consult your pediatrician and members of your autism treatment team about what the necessary steps are to assessing readiness (which will vary according to each individual). Your pediatrician or autism treatment team may refer you on for a more formal evaluation. For example, some potential drivers may be guided to consult with a professional (like an occupational therapist who specializes in driving) who can assess readiness. The University of Washington Medical Center offers a driving readiness assessment and education program, through their occupational therapy/rehabilitation program (link below).

You might be asking what kind of skills will be considered when assessing driving readiness? The University of Washington’s Driving Rehabilitation website states that “applicants must be physically stable and able to maintain good judgment in driving emergencies.” According to UW’s website, here are some other things to consider when you’re thinking about driving readiness:

  • The individual’s desire to drive
  • Attention span/ability to focus
  • Hand-eye and body coordination
  • Direction-following skills
  • Ability to study, learn and memorize rules and information
  • Ability to follow rules
  • Ability to multi-task
  • Ability to prioritize
  • Problem solving skills (and quickness at doing so)
  • Reaction time
  • Strength (physical)
  • Visual acuity ability
  • Visual perception ability
  • Visual scanning ability