Research by Center for Autism and Related Disorders Shows Telehealth Therapy Is Effective for Individuals with Autism

PLANO, TEXAS (PRWEB) AUGUST 12, 2021

In a recent study conducted by researchers at the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD), LLC, applied behavior analysis (ABA) treatment implemented via telehealth was found to increase skill acquisition in patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In the face of clinic closures and distancing requirements brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, many in-person behavioral health services shifted to telehealth with ABA practitioners using video conferencing platforms to implement therapy with patients.

ABA treatment for ASD is often delivered at high intensities, up to 40 hours per week, to reduce challenging behaviors and promote skill acquisition. For patients with ASD, reductions or gaps in treatment can be detrimental to treatment progress and even lead to the loss of previously acquired skills.

“The rapid transition to telehealth services was in the best interest of patients to ensure their health and safety as well as continuity of their treatment programs,” said Karen Nohelty, M.Ed., BCBA, CARD’s research director. “At the same time, research evaluating the effectiveness of direct therapy implemented via telehealth was notably lacking, and we recognized the importance of conducting that research to understand whether telehealth treatment options should continue after the pandemic.”

The current study was among the first to explore the efficacy of telehealth direct therapy. Seven children with varying ASD severity levels, ranging in age from 4 to 16 years, participated in the study. A multiple-baseline treatment design was used to evaluate discrete trial training and natural environment training interventions implemented via telehealth to target various social, language, and adaptive skills. Results revealed that all participants acquired their target skills to mastery criteria. Furthermore, skill maintenance and generalization were demonstrated posttreatment.

“A strength of this study was the inclusion of participants with diverse symptom severity and skill levels,” said Casey Bradford, M.A., BCBA, CARD clinical supervisor. “Findings demonstrated that all participants acquired new skills via telehealth direct therapy, regardless of their severity level.”

These preliminary findings support the use of telehealth direct therapy for patients with ASD as an ongoing treatment option. The majority of the participants required little-to-no caregiver assistance during treatment; however, caregiver intervention implementation may be required, particularly for patients with higher symptom severity levels. Any required level of caregiver assistance may pose a challenge for families with limited availability to participate in treatment. Nevertheless, in the event in-person services are not an option, telehealth direct therapy should be considered a viable supplemental or alternative treatment modality to promote continuity of treatment during the current public health crisis and moving forward.

References

Nohelty, K., Bradford, C. B., Hirschfeld, L., Miyake, C., & Novack, M. N. (2021). Effectiveness of telehealth direct therapy for individuals with autism spectrum disorder. Behavior Analysis in Practice. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40617-021-00603-6

About Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD)
CARD treats individuals of all ages diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at treatment centers around the globe. CARD was founded in 1990 by leading autism expert and clinical psychologist Doreen Granpeesheh, Ph.D., BCBA-D. CARD treats individuals with ASD using the principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA), which is empirically proven to be the most effective method for treating individuals with ASD and recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the US Surgeon General. CARD employs a dedicated team of trained professionals across the nation and internationally. For more information, visit centerforautism.com.