ATLANTA, Ga. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — One in 68 American kids has autism. Boys are four times more likely to have autism than girls. Most experts say applied behavioral therapy is essential for helping kids improve communication and social skills. But, when parents seek help, they are often frustrated by long wait lists for appointments or lengthy trips into the city. But now, a first of its kind provider channels support into homes at the time when it’s needed the most.
Lila and Kai Watai are twins.
“Kai can be a chatty Cathy and he started that right off the bat, and she wouldn’t really communicate,” explained Lauren Watai, Kai and Lila’s Mom.
But by age two, Lila’s behaviors set off alarm bells in Lauren’s head.
Lauren continued, “She would kind of point or express her needs in nonverbal ways.”
Despite a pediatrician’s insistence that Lila was fine, Lauren sought out a specialist who told her Lila had autism.
“We’re gonna attack this thing. We’re not messing around.” Lauren said.
Lauren found a solution, on a small screen.
Erica Nolan is clinical director for CSERV, the first in the country to provide telehealth services exclusively for autism. Applied behavioral analysis focuses on changing behaviors and may require many hours of specialized therapy. Time and distance can be obstacles.
Nolan stated, “We do have a significant amount of families that are in rural areas and have difficulty obtaining behavioral services. Some have been placed on waiting lists I’ve heard from six months up to a year, even past that.”
With CSERV, therapists and parents schedule regular appointments over a computer watching interactions or providing feedback.
“We need to know how to handle unwanted behaviors and how to get good behavior out of her and good communication,” said Lauren.
While ABA is covered by most insurance companies, not all companies cover the telehealth services. A recent study by researchers at Michigan state university found that telehealth programs were helpful in improving a child’s social communication using ABA intervention techniques.
Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Videographer.
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CSERV FOR FAMILIES FACING AUTISM
BACKGROUND: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the name for a group of developmental disorders that varies based on symptoms, skills, and levels of disability. There are two main types of behaviors: restricted, repetitive actions and limited social communication and interaction behaviors. Restrictive and repetitive responses include the following reactions: overly focused interests, such as with moving objects or parts of objects, interest in specific topics, such as numbers, details, or facts. Limited social communication and interaction may include: getting upset by a slight change in routine, lack of eye contact, difficulties maintaining a conversation, using words that may seem out of place, and more. These behaviors can typically be observed by parents or doctors in infants and toddlers, and school staff can recognize these behaviors in older children. A child can be high risk for ASD or developmental problems if they have a sibling or other family member with ASD, or if they were born premature, or early, and at a low birth weight. However, diagnosing ASD in adults can be quite tricky because the symptoms can overlap with the symptoms of other mental health disorders. Nevertheless, it can still be important for adults to get a correct diagnosis to identify strength and weakness and obtain the right kind of help.
ABA: Applied Behavior Analysis, also known as ABA, is a methodology of treating human behavior that is supported by research. ABA has been known for treating persons diagnosed with autism and is recommended by the U.S. Surgeon General as a safe practice. The relationships between behavior and environment are analyzed and measured to understand the behavioral function. ABA has been proven to increase skill-sets, such as communication and social skills, and decreasing behaviors that might hinder them from reaching their goal. The principles that guide ABA are the positive reinforcement to achieve behavioral progress. Furthermore, research has shown that an intense hour of ABA can help manage the symptoms of autism in those who receive early intervention.
CSERVE: Telemedicine is making ABA practices accessible and eliminating the obstacles of time and physical location. ABA therapy is administered through a secure internet connection for video conferencing to deliver the service to the patient’s technological device. Parents, or caregivers, participate in the clinical session and collaborate with the clinicians on a treatment recommendation. This ensures that the behavioral programs continue after the meeting concludes by the parents, family members, or caregivers. Moreover, research demonstrates that when clinicians teach parents behavioral strategies, it improves their children’s behavior dramatically. A study by the Celeste Foundation conducted 4,000 telehealth consultations with 15 families and 17 children. The multidisciplinary team met with the families for 2-16 hours per week to aid the caregivers in implementing their child’s behavioral program. The studies found that 70% of children were successfully toilet trained, all participants acquired over 200 words and had over 100 new foods introduced to them. Furthermore, the families in the study revealed that they felt comfortable receiving service through video conferencing and clinicians felt their interaction was similar to face-to-face interaction. Moreover, caregivers felt empowered with the new skills they acquired and felt significantly less stress as their children made significant behavioral gains.
* For More Information, Contact:
Erica Nolan, MS, BCBA