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Telehealth Treatment of Autism
Telehealth Autism Treatment can play an essential role in the early detection of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Early detection is vital to helping a child with autism, as research has shown that early diagnosis can significantly improve a child’s overall development. Research supports that young children who receive early behavioral intervention (before two years) demonstrate substantial gains in functioning when compared to children diagnosed later.
Increasing evidence shows that children with autism spectrum disorder can be accurately identified during their second year of life. The average age of diagnosis in Tennessee and across the country remains well above four years of age.
One major contributing factor to delayed identification relates to challenges accessing diagnostic clinics and autism experts, as many families face long waiting periods for specialty clinics and geographic and travel burdens. These barriers can leave the families of children with a suspected diagnosis of autism in the dark for months or more than a year, delaying access to early interventions that can dramatically influence development.
What is Applied Behavior Analysis?
ABA therapy applies our understanding of how behavior works in real situations. The goal is to increase helpful actions and decrease behaviors that are harmful or affect learning.
Autism Therapy Programs can help
The method of behavior analysis has been used and studied for decades. They have helped many learners gain different skills -from healthier lifestyles to learning a new language. Therapists have used ABA to help children with autism and related developmental disorders since the 1960s.
Expanding Access to Autism Therapy Through Parent Training
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is a standard therapy modality and best practice for children with an ASD diagnosis. ABA, a treatment based on the science of learning and behavior, focuses on increasing desirable and decreasing behaviors that are harmful or affect learning. ABA therapy focuses on positive reinforcement and teaching skills of everyday life: how to deal with conflict, brush teeth, or make eye contact. It is a flexible treatment that is perfect for children with autism. It can be adapted to meet each child; each therapy plan is designed specifically for the child’s needs and changes as those needs evolve. It can be provided in many different locations: at home, at school, or in the community.
Like many healthcare aspects, ABA treatment is often hard to access for people living in rural or underserved areas. There is a shortage of therapists across the country, even in the most populated and medically advanced regions. The dearth of qualified therapists in rural communities is especially problematic. This shortage is a challenge that telehealth can address OK – filling the missing piece of the puzzle.
According to an article in Health Recovery Solutions by Elizabeth Veringa titled “The Telehealth Era,” telehealth, parents, caregivers, and teachers can be trained on delivering quality ABA therapy to their children and children in their community. One study found that parents successfully use functional analysis (FA) and practical communication training (FCT) to treat moderate to severe behavioral problems associated with ASD. Regardless of whether treatment is directed by behavior consultants in-person or via remote video coaching. The study, which analyzed 94 children with ASD, tested the efficacy of utilizing telehealth to train parents in ABA procedures.
The findings indicate that telehealth can successfully train parents in implementing FA and FCT best to reduce their child’s problem behaviors, supporting that telehealth in place of in-person visits to a specialist.
Missouri Autism Treatment Program Finds Success with Telemedicine
For those patients—and their families—living in rural communities or other underserved areas, it can be challenging to access many specialized services, including behavioral and speech therapists, that are necessary when living with the disorder. However, can telehealth help to remove some of these barriers by training providers in remote areas? As Science Magazine first reported, the University of Missouri’s ECHO Autism treatment program successfully doing just that, serves as a training hub for primary care providers seeking to treat patients with autism since its launch in 2015 better. The program “[uses] high-quality, secure video conferencing technology to connect participating primary care clinics to a panel of experts,” a press release from the university explains.
Based at the MU Thompson Center for Autism and Neuro-developmental Disorders, the program is part of the broader Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) network, which began at the University of New Mexico. Increases access to specialty medical care in underserved communities. As ECHO Autism’s director Kristin Sohl, a professor of child health at the university, explains, “The program effectively increases the capacity for health care in under-served communities, which means that families can get the answers they need without traveling or waiting to see a specialist.” In an article detailing the program’s results published in the Journal of Clinical Pediatrics, Sohl and her colleagues note that primary care providers are “in an ideal position to help improve care for” children with autism, given the regularity with which they tend to see patients. Nevertheless, they often tend to “lack confidence, knowledge, and training” on how best to diagnose and treat autism. To that end, ECHO Autism seeks to empower providers—and its early results have been overwhelmingly positive. “Participating primary care providers demonstrated significant improvements in confidence across all sectors of health care for children with autism, including screening and identification, assessment and treatment of medical and psychiatric conditions, and knowledge of and referral to available resources,” per the university’s press release.
ECHO Autism has received funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the Missouri Telehealth Network. It is among other sources and is expanding to Alabama, Alaska, New Mexico, and Arizona. Notably, among those who will serve at the new program sites in the latter two states are Navajo communities. For her part, Sohl sees the program going even further afield than that in its efforts to serve patients in under-served communities—indeed, program sites in Kenya planed in the future. “The success we have seen in Missouri and in other areas where ECHO Autism replicated means that this model can work in even more remote areas,” she said in the university’s press release. “Expanding the program from Africa to Alaska will help families around the world.”
Vanderbilt University and Virtual Treatment for Autism
Nashville Public Radio reported that Vanderbilt University’s Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders utilizes telemedicine for Autism treatment. The goal of the Vanderbilt Autism treatment program is to provide remote early-intervention services to children diagnosed with autism. “We aim to provide high-quality, evidence-based services and training for families and professionals in the topics and skills of most need,” said Dr. Alacia Stainbrook in a Vanderbilt press release. To accomplish Telehealth Autism treatment, Vanderbilt focuses on increasing access to all that need it. We very much believe that geography should not limit anyone’s ability to receive good services.”
TRIAD’s staff members provide enrolled families with specially programmed iPads that they control from Nashville’s program headquarters. Many of the families live in Tennessee’s rural communities. Each week, parents and children—all three years old or younger—participate from home in remote therapy sessions via video with program staff members. As highlighted in Nashville Public Radio’s piece, the visits can work even at a distance. “Without ever meeting in person, Copeland has worked solely through the weekly video sessions with Stainbrook and behavioral analyst Will Martin to develop new strategies,” the article notes. “She now pauses just before doing something [her son] River wants and prompts him to do something he doesn’t—whether that is saying a word or making eye contact.” The funding for the Vanderbilt study comes with a grant from the Tennessee Department of Education.
More information on the Vanderbilt program should read the following article dated March 7, 2019, by Kelsey Herbers located on the Vanderbilt University Medical Center website.
Providing Telehealth Autism treatment does not require The Big Investment you might think
The Telehealth Autism treatment for delivery of services does not require providers to spend a large amount of money to purchase customized telehealth technology. Many of the available telehealth platforms available on the market can provide many of the tools necessary to improve quality care access.
In the ideal world, the clinician has the Electronic Medical Record (EMR) of your dreams. They offer a fully integrated Telehealth integrated that meets your practice needs. Hopefully, all sarcasm aside, as technology improves, this kind of statement will become more the norm than the “unicorn” it is today. However, Before going out and purchasing or subscribing to the first telehealth company, a little prudent homework will go a long way. Readers may also find Complete Guide to Telehealth useful click here.
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