Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and Telepractice

As the preferred term implies, Autism represents a spectrum of abilities and needs. Some common characteristics include: (1) Difficulties interacting with the environment. This can result in sensitivity to different sensory information, (like sight, sound, touch, etc.), restricted and predictable routines, repetitive body movements and intense focus on objects and actions. (2) Challenges taking the perspective of others and reading social cues. Therefore, individuals with ASD may have difficulty interpreting non-verbal communication, sharing attention and enjoyment of joint activities with others, and responding in ways that are deemed socially appropriate. (3) Language-learning needs. This is one of the areas with most variability. Some people with ASD have strong language skills and fluent speech; others have limited language or use repeated forms.

Telepractice can address these diverse needs in equally diverse ways. A child’s response to the sensory stimuli of a telepractice session will be highly individualized; however, there are many ways to find high-interest activities while minimizing negative sensory effects. There are some unique challenges to addressing non-verbal cues, (like eye contact), through a webcam. However, a therapist can act as a “tele-coach,” monitoring and guiding helpful interactions between another individual who is present with the child with ASD. Telepractitioners have a history of success increasing language and communication remotely. Although it requires creativity and a team effort, telepractice holds a lot of potential to support the communication growth of children with ASD.