Objectives: The current pilot study examined the use of telemedicine technology to deliver a manualized, parent-implemented intervention for families of children with ASD, ages 12-36 months. It was hypothesized that telemedicine technology as a teaching modality would optimize parenting intervention strategies for supporting children’s social, affective, communicative, and play development.
Methods: Families received 12 weekly one-hour sessions of direct coaching and instruction of the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) Parent Delivery Model through an Internet-based video conferencing program. Each week parents were coached on a specific aspect of the intervention through video conferencing program and webcam, allowing parent and therapist to see, hear, and communicate with one another. Parents were taught how to integrate the ESDM into natural, developmentally and age-appropriate play activities and caretaking routines in their homes. Video data were recorded from 10 minutes of parent-child interaction at the start of each session and coded by two independent raters blind to the order of sessions and hypotheses of the study.
Results: Findings suggested that integrating telemedicine as a teaching modality enabled: (a) parents to implement the ESDM more skillfully after coaching; and (b) increase in children’s number of spontaneous words, gestures, and imitative behaviors used.
Conclusions: The current findings support the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of using telemedicine to transfer a developmentally based, relationship focused, and behaviorally informed intervention (i.e., the ESDM) into parents’ homes to be delivered within typical parent-child activities. Additional research is needed to confirm the promise and utility of telemedicine for transporting services to families with limited access.