By Chantal Rainford, clinical director, Nevada Autism Center.
The advent of telehealth has been a groundbreaking step in the global healthcare ecosystem, and even more so in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Treatments targeting autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have been demonstrated to benefit significantly from telemedicine.
ASD is a complicated neurodevelopmental disease that profoundly affects social interaction and behavior. Historically, geographical location, availability of specialists, and limited resources have been substantial barriers to timely diagnosis and treatment. However, telehealth is successfully addressing these challenges, expanding access to autism services, and enabling early intervention.
The Growing Demand for ABA and Telehealth Services
ASD has been identified in approximately one in 36 children in the United States, and early intervention is extremely important for improving long-term outcomes. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a widely used and recognized therapeutic approach that helps improve social, communication, and learning skills through positive reinforcement.
Unfortunately, the increasing demand for ABA services has strained the limited supply of specialists. As the global pandemic reshapes healthcare delivery, telehealth is emerging as a respected means to bridge these access gaps, providing a lifeline to those who need it most.
How Does Telehealth Work in Autism Treatment?
At its core, telehealth leverages digital technology to deliver healthcare services remotely. For children with autism, this translates into receiving ABA therapy from the comfort of their homes, making the experience less stressful for both the child and their caregivers.
Evidence of Success in Telehealth-Based Autism Treatment
Research has shown that telehealth can be as effective or better as traditional in-person therapy for treating ASD. According to research published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, children receiving telehealth-based ABA therapy made comparable improvements in their skills as children receiving in-person therapy.