LEARN Behavioral announces Telehealth ABA services now available in D.C., Maryland and Virginia through Trellis and SPARKS.

Children diagnosed with ASD may continue to receive critical ABA therapy remotely during COVID-19 pandemic.

Washington, DC; LANDOVER, SPARKS, PERRY HALL & COLUMBIA, MD; Springfield VA… LEARN Behavioral, the leading network of providers serving children with autism and other special needs, announces the availability of telehealth Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services to children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and their families in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia through their regional providers, Trellis and SPARKS.

To continue providing critical ABA services to client families during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Trellis and SPARKS have innovated their service delivery model and capabilities to provide telehealth ABA services, or “teleABA” as coined by LEARN.

TeleABA provides another option for families who prefer virtual therapy services over in-person therapy, or who have household family members who are at higher risk for severe illness. It is ABA therapy overseen by a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) that parallels in-person treatment.

“The COVID-19 response requiring nationwide social distancing and other safety guidelines

has left many parents of children on the autism spectrum wondering how to maintain the gains their children have made in ABA therapy,” explained Hanna Rue, Ph.D., BCBA-D, Vice President of Clinical Development for LEARN. “Trellis, SPARKS and LEARN are helping parents throughout D.C., Maryland and Virginia by providing the option of teleABA therapy which helps ensure that their children are able to continue their forward momentum towards established treatment goals.”

TeleABA Services

Treatment for ASD is in accordance with state and federal emergency guidance regarding medically necessary telehealth services. It is imperative that children with ASD avoid any break in ABA therapy as this may cause distress, disruption and potential behavior regression. TeleABA is the delivery of evidence-based ABA therapy with master level clinicians via HIPAA-compliant videoconferencing, which is accessible by computer, tablet or smartphone.

Trellis and SPARKS teleABA services include direct treatment and parent consultation. Direct treatment is one-on-one treatment sessions with a child geared towards maintaining and generalizing communication, play skills and behavioral progress. Parent consultation provides an opportunity to discuss daily routines and challenging behaviors, identify targets, and implement a plan.

TeleABA enables families to continue to build upon and reinforce skills including, but not limited to:

– Potty training

– Bedtime/sleep routine

– Screen time

– Personal hygiene routine, including hand-washing

Through teleABA, Trellis and SPARKS help children and families in a number of ways. For example: discussing strategies and progress on a desired goal; developing a routine that fits in to your family’s schedule; providing individual reinforcement strategies; setting and explaining clear expectations; and offering “in the moment” parent coaching along with references to help successfully reach your child’s goal.

Dr. Rue continued, “We have received a tremendous response from our families, who are experiencing new successes due to our virtual teleABA services. It is our hope that teleABA treatment will continue to be accepted by insurers beyond COVID-19, as this will enable us to serve a greater number of children and families on the autism spectrum who need services but have limited in-person access to ABA providers.”

LEARN has served over 2,500 families through teleABA, with nearly 1,000 trained providers across the nation who have delivered sessions. LEARN is dedicated to supporting their staff and has developed a comprehensive resource library which enables them to access tools, resources, training and support online.

For more information about Trellis teleABA services, visit https://trellisservices.com and for information about SPARKS teleABA, visit https://www.sparksaba.com/.

About Trellis

Founded in 2001, Trellis specializes in serving children with autism and other related disorders using the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). Trellis is a unique agency that uses progressive educational and behavioral models to help teach children that learning can be a fun, playful and interactive experience. Over the years, their passionate staff and thoughtful programming has helped more than 500 families in Maryland. Trellis is located in Sparks, Perry Hall, and Columbia, MD. For more information, visit https://trellisservices.com


SPARKS is one of the leading autism services organizations in the D.C. Metropolitan area. The organization’s mission is to develop programs for individuals with autism that will allow them to reach their highest potential. At SPARKS, ABA Services are provided to each child on an individualized basis, through a continuum of therapy models. The ABA services team meets regularly with a child’s parents, caregivers, and other service providers to share progress and treatment strategies. SPARKS is located in Landover, MD and Springfield, VA.



LEARN is a leading network of providers, which includes Trellis and SPARKS, that serves children with autism and other special learning needs. LEARN specializes in behavioral health treatment based on the science of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and is committed to providing programs and services that are family-focused, community-minded, and delivered with the highest clinical integrity. The LEARN team delivers more than 2.5 million hours of service annually and is comprised of more than 5,000 passionate professionals dedicated to nurturing each child’s personal best. For more information, visit learnbehavioral.com.

How to Start Talking About Racism

By: Angela Montes, MS, BCBA


Racism. Its existence makes our hearts heavy, evokes sadness, generates uncertainty, and creates fear. Starting and having a conversation about racism has always been difficult. Even though it may make us uncomfortable, it’s an important conversation to have. As parents and caregivers, you may find yourself asking: How old does my child need to be to have this conversation? How do I even start the conversation? Are there any resources that will help me with this conversation? Here are some starting points, using some of the tools you might already have, to initiate a conversation about racism.


Ages 0-2:

It is recommended that children see their parents and caregiver interact with individuals whose race and ethnicity differ from their own. Take it a step further and enrich your environment to ensure that your child is exposed to books and toys that include multiple ethnicities. According to studies (Kelly, D.J., et al. 2005), children as young as three months old can categorize people by race. Early intervention is critical.


Children’s Books about Diversity


Ages 3-4:

Between this age, parents should continue to model inclusivity of other ethnicities via physical interactions, TV shows, books read, and toys purchased. Children who see their parents and caregivers engage in unbiased behavior benefit from the positive model they observe. As a proactive strategy, initiate the conversation of racism with your child by pointing out the differences in color of skin, hair, and language. It is important to show young children that differences exist and that it’s okay to be different.


10 Tips for Reading Picture Books with Children through a Race-Conscious Lens


Ages 5-11:

Between this age range, children are making stronger associations across racial groups. Continue the exposure of multiple ethnicities via books, TV shows, and interactions. Initiate a discussion about the subtleties within TV shows and how stereotypes often carry over into the real world. Begin to discuss how racism has created an unfair treatment of people of different

races. Continue the conversation that this issue has been ongoing and that they can help support the fight against racism through advocacy groups. Having direct conversations during this age can help improve racial attitudes. As a proactive strategy, parents and caregivers can begin conversations about racism early and not wait until their child is exposed to a racist event.


CNN/Sesame Street racism town hall


Ages 12 and up:

Keep the conversation going! During this time, continue to model interactions with other ethnicities, diversity within books, games, and TV shows. Remain open in dialogue, including answering questions children have about racism (even if it’s uncomfortable for you). These direct conversations promote inclusion and that it’s okay to discuss racism within your family structure. In doing so, you are providing different perspectives for your children. Teach your children how to recognize racism and how to respond to situations they may encounter. For example, you can equip your child with statements to use, such as “I don’t agree with you,” or “that wasn’t cool – because…” Additionally, ensure your child knows whom they can approach to report and discuss what they experienced. Using age-appropriate language, ensure that children also have the skill of self-awareness regarding race. From evaluation, that is your starting point to begin to educate your children on what race is and what it isn’t.


How to Talk to Your Kids About Anti-Racism: A List of Resources


Studies on the topic of race



(Kelly, D. J., Quinn, P. C., Slater, A. M., Lee, K., Gibson, A.,

Smith, M., Ge, L., & Pascalis, O. (2005). Three-month-olds,

but not newborns, prefer own-race faces. Developmental

science, 8(6), F31–F36.







Tools on How-To regarding racism











Resources to expand your library









Preparing to Use Respite Workers and Babysitters

Now that things are beginning to open back up in some communities, we may start to turn our thoughts to one of the luxuries that may have been unavailable to many of us for the past few months – babysitters! Particularly now, as many of us have been with our children for months, the thought of getting out and enjoying some adult time is especially appealing. And for some of us, it’s a matter of mental well-being. (Insert “raising hand” emoji!)

Before the pandemic, I was much more hesitant to leave my kids with someone who didn’t have a comprehensive working knowledge of my child’s needs. Many parents are finding that their regular babysitter or respite worker is no longer available, or is not yet ready to go into someone else’s home. If you are in the situation of hiring someone new to care for your kiddos, here are some tips to getting back in the babysitter / respite worker game:

Preparation and Planning

Leaving your children after such a long stretch of being together may be unnerving to you – and to them. Carefully consider what you need to do to make this successful – picking the time of day they may be happiest, avoiding leaving during difficult parts of their schedule (in our house, that’s bedtime), and listing the types of activities that are sure to keep them engaged and content (cough-electronics-cough). Being in the midst of a pandemic that seems to be more easily spread indoors than out, you may want to think about having everyone outside for a portion or all of the time the sitter or respite worker is there.

Interview – Be Honest About the Job 

If you are using a babysitter or respite worker you haven’t worked with before, be sure to disclose everything they need to know in order to determine if they are the right fit. Sometimes this part is easy to skip, because the most important pieces are also the parts that are most painful to talk about. Lead with all of the positives about your kiddos, but don’t forget to mention the hard parts – any toileting issues, aggression or other challenging behavior they may need to handle. It’s also extremely important to be crystal clear about the COVID precautions you expect them to take, and what you will be doing to protect them (masks, gloves, handwashing, disinfecting). Some parents will feel more comfortable inquiring about the new babysitter’s social distancing practices, and it’s important to clarify that ANY symptoms that arise requires a cancellation.

Virtual Orientation 

Before the pandemic, many of us would have a new babysitter or respite worker come over and get to know the kids on a day we’d all be together, or at the very least, have them come by early to get the lay of the land. These days, as we focus on preventing the spread of germs, you may want to have a “virtual” orientation to accomplish this. Though you may still want to spend some time with the new babysitter and your kids in person before you leave, getting through talks of where the emergency numbers are and how to handle challenging behavior is easily something you can accomplish via phone or Zoom.

Behavior Plan Cheat Sheet

If your child has a behavior plan for ABA sessions or in school, it’s a good idea to have a short-hand version for the babysitter or respite worker. There’s no need to give them the whole thing, but it’s a good idea to write down the pieces of it that you expect them to keep consistent. Respite workers may be more adept at implementing behavior plans than your typical babysitter, so adjust according to their experience and role.

Arrange the Environment 

If your house is anything like mine, there are toys and other items around that are more likely to cause issues than others. Maybe there are toys your children fight over, or things they need a lot of supervision to use, or non-food items that could end up in someone’s mouth. Do a scan of your house, and put away anything likely to cause an issue.

Prepare the Kid(s)

Every child needs a different type of preparation. It is helpful for some children to have a social story, especially if they haven’t been separated from their parents in a few months. It can also be comforting to others to have a “warming up” period while they get to know the new person in their parents’ presence. I know other moms who prefer to keep the transition short and sweet and “rip off the band-aid” by heading out immediately. You know your kid, consider what will work best and be intentional about how you approach this.

Once your area is safe and you are ready to leave your kids, planning ahead (even just a little bit) can do wonders for your ability to relax. Go enjoy your foray back into the world.

Please note: Different states are in different points in re-opening; this is not an endorsement to get a babysitter if that runs counter to the guidance in your area.