Access to ABA Therapy Expanding Through Technology
As the incidence of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in children increases, the demand for professionals with expertise in applied behavior analysis also increases.
As more professionals become credentialed every year, services provided to individuals with ASD may be limited due to the lack of experts located within the same geographical area, resulting in a lack of access to high quality services. Technological advancements, such as telehealth, can offer an alternative to services provided in-person that may increase access of individuals with ASD to experts (e.g., behavior analysts).
Telehealth may be referred to in a number of ways. General terms for Telehealth often include:
This technology can be a valuable way to increase access to behavior analytic services and to maximize the services provided to ABA therapy consumers.
Specifically, telehealth is a technology that allows experts in a specific field to provide real time training, consultation, and delivery of services in remote areas (see review in Boisvert, Lang, Andrianopoulos, & Boscardin, 2010; Dudding, 2009). Telehealth has been used for over 30 years, and has been successfully adopted by many fields (e.g., dermatology, psychiatry, and surgery). Applied behavior analysts started to evaluate the use of telehealth less than ten years ago, and the results are promising, suggesting that telehealth is effective, cost-effective, and acceptable by the consumers (see Boisvert et al., 2010 for a review).
Telehealth has many advantages, including its accessibility and flexibility. Such characteristics make possible for services to be provided across the country and, perhaps, the world. Telehealth becomes more feasible as access to technology expands among the population. This holds especially true today as over 70% of the United States population reported owning a computer and having internet access (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011).
On top of its accessibility, telehealth is flexible in such way that the expert can provide training, consultation or delivery of services from any location where internet and two electronic devices (e.g., tablet, computer) are available. For example, the expert may be located at his office and provide services through a laptop computer that is connected to a tablet (or another computer) located at the client’s home. Then, the expert can observe and communicate with the therapist, client or client’s guardians via the devices’ built-in webcams and microphones.
All in all, flexibility and accessibility of telehealth can make services available to clients who live in remote areas while increasing the amount of individuals with ASD receiving high quality services.
Boisvert, M., Lang, R., Andrianopoulos, M., & Boscardin, M. L. (2010). Telepractice in the assessment and treatment of individuals with autism spectrum disorders: A systematic review. Developmental Neurorehabilitation, 13, 423-432.
Dudding, C. C. (2009). Digital videoconferencing: Applications across the disciplines. Communication Disorders Quarterly, 30, 178-182.
U.S. Census Bureau. (2011). Computer and Internet Use. Retrieved December, 17, 2013 from http://www.census.gov/hhes/computer/publications/2011.html.