Telehealth Delivery of a Caregiver-Mediated Intervention for Minimally Verbal Children with ASD
Objectives: The current study aimed to evaluate the feasibility, caregiver satisfaction, and preliminary efficacy of a caregiver-mediated intervention delivered via telehealth to improve expressive language of 15 young children with ASD and severe language delays.
Methods: Fifteen minimally verbal children (ages 2 to 4 years) with autism were enrolled in a 12-week caregiver-mediated request training intervention. All participants were diagnosed with ASD using gold standard assessment procedures, and the average Mullen expressive language t-score of the sample was 23.72 (SD = 8.46; Mean AE = 13.63 months). The study utilized a within-group design and compared child vocalization outcomes at pre- and post-intervention, as well as at 1-month follow-up. Intervention procedures were based on Loughrey et al. (2014), and included didactic teaching, video modeling, practice, and feedback.
Results: Data were collected utilizing both direct and indirect measures that assessed feasibility, caregiver satisfaction, and preliminary efficacy. Out of 15 enrolled participants, the majority (66.67%) completed the entire study. Session attendance was high (M = 82.21%, SD = 13.66%), all participants (100%) reported satisfaction with the services their child received, and most (88.89%) reported that they would participate in telehealth services in the future. During a naturalistic observation from pre- to post-treatment, most children (80%) made gains in unprompted requests, and half (50%) made gains in spontaneous comments.
Conclusions: Our study provides preliminary support for the feasibility and efficacy of a caregiver-mediated intervention to increase language skills in minimally verbal children with ASD delivered entirely through the use of telehealth technology. Given that many young children with ASD do not develop functional communication skills without intervention (Eigsti et al., 2011) and that there are significant barriers to accessing evidence-based treatment, a time-limited and easily accessible intervention such as the one utilized in our study has the potential to make a large positive impact on this population.