Children with autism often have problems with social interaction, language, and repetitive behavior (e.g., hand flapping). Experts believe that approximately 13,000 children of active service members are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.
Without early and intensive treatments, the long-term outcomes for children with autism are not very good; therefore, it is very important that effective treatments are started as soon as possible. Research has shown that Early Intensive Behavioral Interventions (EIBI) is an effective treatment for autism. Although EIBI is effective, most children with autism in military families do not receive EIBI because there are few professionals and paraprofessionals that are appropriately trained to do this, especially in the remote areas where military families tend to serve. We want to show that web-based technologies (e.g., web-cams) can be used so that professionals in one place can treat children with autism anywhere in the world.
We expect that this project will allow military families to receive effective treatments all over the world. We also expect that providing these services will help children with autism improve their language, social, and academic skills. We expect that the gains made by the children will help relieve many daily stressors and worries that families with children with autism have.
Children with autism who lack adaptive skills require constant help and supervision from caregivers. Thus, the improvements in the child's functioning will allow the child to become more independent and decrease caregiver stress associated with the need to constantly watch and help the child. Because EIBI services produce lasting improvements long after the intervention has ended, this project will provide both short-term and long-term benefits to the children who participate in the study, which will provide lasting relief to these dedicated military families.
The treatment we will use may be particularly important for military families who are more likely to move frequently, which can interrupt services and prevent military families from having a long-term relationship with a professional in a specific place. Military families will benefit from the flexibility that technology offers because it will allow them to have continuous, uninterrupted services with one professional, no matter where they are in the world. Getting rid of the worries of figuring out who to see and where to go each time the family moves should reduce the stress these families have.
In the long term, this project may really change the way in which all (military and non-military) children and families get effective services that they cannot get now. Also, the results may help other professionals and researchers in psychology and medicine. That is, the results should be helpful to any kind of service that uses parent training and paraprofessionals. Most importantly, these services will improve the overall functioning of the children with autism decrease the overall stress on these families as they continue to serve our country.