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Researchers pioneer telemedicine training for rural parents of children with autism

Mon, 04/14/2014

LAWRENCE — In 2004 University of Kansas researchers Linda Heitzman-Powell and Jay Buzhardt had the bold idea of training parents of children with autism to use an intervention based on the science of applied behavior analysis (ABA) to help them increase their children’s independent skills and reduce problem behaviors.

What’s more, the training would be rigorous, and it would be long-distance: coaching via live interactive television along with online educational modules covering the concepts and principles of behavioral intervention. The highly effective treatment for children with autism is endorsed by the American Academy of Family Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, the National Institute of Mental Health and the U.S. surgeon general.

“Autism spectrum disorders, now estimated to affect one in 68 children, are just as common in rural America,” said Heitzman-Powell, research assistant professor, “but ABA-trained professionals are rare.”

While involving parents in training is critical, according to the National Research Council, little is known about how to make training resources available to families in remote areas or with limited capacity to travel to facilities for one-on-one practice and coaching, said Heitzman-Powell, a licensed psychologist and a board-certified behavior analyst.

Now, the researchers have published the results of their initial study of the feasibility of training parents through their Online and Applied System for Intervention Skills (OASIS) in Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities.

Parents increased their knowledge of ABA strategies and concepts by an average of 39 percentage points and improved their implementation of these strategies with their children by an average of 41 percentage points, said Buzhardt, associate research professor who employs technology to help make evidence-based practices accessible to rural and underserved populations.

What’s more, the initial OASIS project saved the four families participating in the study more than 9,000 driving miles compared to the miles they would have driven to a regional medical center in Kansas City area.

Since the first small feasibility study, an evaluation of OASIS with close to 40 families across Kansas showed that parents learned and retained skills as precise as collecting and analyzing data and how to use it for making decisions.

“Pre- and post-test results on knowledge and using skills was impressive, as was parent satisfaction, said Heitzman-Powell.

OASIS has continued past the end of the research project: The Center for Child Health and Development at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City has begun offering OASIS as a clinical service.

The KU team also is translating and adapting OASIS for the Hispanic population, and researchers from Poland and Italy have expressed interest in translating the training program.

The researchers are evaluating the short and long-term effects of the strategies parents learned through OASIS on their children’s language and social skill development. They will also assess the long-term effects on the families and children from their initial study.

As to the importance of OASIS, Heitzman-Powell notes that approximately half of children with ASD who are diagnosed early and receive appropriate treatment will mainstream in a public school setting without an aide. “But without appropriate intervention, very few will achieve this level of success,” she said. 



Matt Menzenski, a graduate student in Slavic languages & literatures, took this photo during President Obama’s speech at KU Thursday. Menzenski says he was struck by how relaxed the president was in his delivery. He missed a chance to hear former President Bill Clinton speak in his hometown in 2004, but finally got to see a sitting president this week at KU. “The opportunity to hear the president speak is just one of many great opportunities I've had at KU. So many interesting talks and events happen here all the time. I try to attend at least one a week-- it's never hard to find something interesting to go to.” Tags: University of Kansas College of Liberal Arts and Sciences KU School of Languages, Literatures & Cultures KU Dept of Slavic Languages - Friends & Alumni Barack Obama The White House #exploreKU #POTUSatKU

#KUfacts : 12 companies have moved to Lawrence in recent years to partner with KU. #growKS #KSleg
Explore KU: The Bells of Mount Oread KU’s Campanile, a 120-foot-tall timepiece that tolls automatically on the hour and quarter-hour, not only sounded in the 2015 New Year at midnight with 12 mighty gongs, but also regularly rings up memories for many Jayhawks – the 277 faculty and students who gave their lives during World War II, the graduates who walk through its doors at commencement, and aspiring students who have strolled through the Lawrence campus. (See http://bit.ly/1xjjwJj). For nearly 60 years, KU’s 53-bell carillon has been tolling the sounds of peace and serenity across Mount Oread since it was installed in June 1955 inside the landmark World War II Memorial Campanile, which was dedicated in 1951. (See http://bit.ly/1BoL9jv) The carillon is also a four-octave musical instrument, which is played with a giant keyboard and foot pedals. University Carillonneur Elizabeth Egber-Berghout (http://bit.ly/14fiBPl), associate professor of carillon and organ, climbs 77 steps up a spiral staircase in the bell tower to perform recitals several times a month.


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