ATLANTA -- (11/15/2017) -- 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.