Objectives: The current study examined the effectiveness of the telehealth training approach in terms of therapist and child behavior changes. The participants involved 16 therapists in four community agencies across two states and 21 families of young children with autism. Therapists were taught the conceptual framework and teaching principles of the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), a model that fuses development, relationship, and behavioral methods specifically developed for use with infants and toddlers with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) aged 12-36 months.
Methods: Three different methods of learning were used to teach the ESDM: (a) self-instruction in which therapists reviewed the written and video materials and implemented the model without direct training or instruction; (b) group instruction in which direct training was provided on the assessment and intervention procedures via distance education technology; and (3) individual instruction in which further training, supervision and feedback was provided independently to each site via distance education technology.
Results: Preliminary data indicate that group and individual instruction (via distance education technology) resulted in therapists’ acquisition of the intervention techniques and in improvements in child social communicative behaviors. Data are currently being analyzed to examine whether therapists may also learn the ESDM parent coaching practices via distance education technology.
Conclusions: Family characteristics, therapist variables, and contextual factors will be examined to determine whether modifications from the original efficacious intervention model are needed for the generalization of positive treatment effects to large community populations. Findings are also discussed in terms of the circumstances under which the ESDM is effective and for whom.