There’s been a number of headlines around the increased use of telemedicine during these trying times. However, the use of telehealth is not just restricted to those suffering from physical ailments. It’s also for people suffering from mental health issues, including children.
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With so many children unable to attend school because of pandemic-related closures, parents and educators are scrambling to come up with online resources to help students keep learning.
But classroom lessons aren’t the only element parents and children are missing during this unprecedented time.
Many children and teens with conditions such as autism, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and anxiety could fall through the cracks without the ability to receive the appropriate therapy.
Ironically, the need for therapy is likely amplified as the coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads and many people are self-isolated out of fear or because of government requirements.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approx. 1 in 5 children in the United States suffers from a developmental delay or disorder. As part of the No Child Left Behind Act, much of that responsibility falls on K-12 schools to provide high-risk students with free therapy services. With schools closing across the country, educators are scrambling to figure out how to continue supporting these children.
This is where Astoria, New York-based Enable My Child comes in.
Over the past two weeks, Enable My Child – which provides pediatric mental health, speech, physical and occupational therapy by leveraging artificial intelligence – says it has been “slammed with inquiries” since COVID-19 fears have escalated.
As of March 20, the company was in discussions with over 1,000 schools, as well as two states to support early intervention centers in every county. It’s also heard from dozens of private therapy practices in need of more than just video conference software to transition to remote therapy.
Enable My Child Founder Syed Mohammed said he’s seeing “massive demand” for his company’s technology.
“The question is not if they will use it, but more of what we can handle,” he told Crunchbase News in a telephone interview.
Enable My Child, according to Mohammed, goes beyond video conferencing to serve as a therapy management platform. It facilitates capabilities such as automating administrative tasks and billing, and managing smart filing for therapy documents, automatic compliance and automation when a therapist takes case notes.
“It’s a turnkey solution for exactly this kind of environment,” he said. “It’s super unfortunate that this moment is here, but now so many therapists are basically shifting their business to virtual.”
Opening up its platform
Enable My Child has opened up its platform to schools that need to provide therapy but have been unable to do so.
“There are children receiving these kinds of therapies such as [those who are] autistic, or those with depression who are prone to harming themselves, or some with dyslexia,” Mohammed said. “There’s a whole spectrum of things we don’t want to discontinue much-needed therapy for children.”
The schools don’t have to use Enable My Child’s therapists. The company has made its platform free to them for the first 30 days. After that time, it will ask schools to pay bandwidth to help cover the costs of providing the platform to schools with an over 40 percent poverty rate.
“By charging for bandwidth costs after 30 days, that will allow us to continue providing the platform for free for the schools that can’t afford it,” Mohammed told me.
Enable My Child is using AI to predict demand, as well as to help therapists improve the quality of their services.
“Our AI tracks therapy strategies that are effective versus ones that weren’t,” Mohammed said. “If there’s a child with a certain diagnosis, our data helps allow therapists glean extra knowledge, such as ‘here are the things that worked in the past with particular profiles,’ providing them with more insight and giving them added intelligence.”
Mohammed grew up with overarching ADHD and anxiety and continues to see a therapist weekly. As a result, he personally understands the importance of therapy for children with certain conditions.
Enable My Child raised $1.2 million in venture funding from Dallas-based CMI Ventures in August 2019. It saw 300 percent revenue growth year over year in 2019, according to Mohammed. The startup has about 10 employees, and a contracted network of over 100 licensed pediatric therapists. Prior to the pandemic, the startup was contracted by over 200 schools in 40 states and with early intervention centers in five states.
School onboarding begins today.
Illustration: Li-Anne Dias