The opportunities to obtain advanced services for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are typically limited for rural families. Even though there are state and federal requirements for funding to assist these families, the ability to hire and retain sufficient resources to meet these needs is rare.

Alacia Stainbrook summarizes the dilemma in The Challenges of Autism in Small-Town America, explaining that in states like Iowa, as many as half of the 8,000 children with autism reside in rural areas. Professionals using videoconferencing at the University of Iowa, University of Missouri, Vanderbilt, and others, have developed programs that can reduce wait times, provide access to the most efficient resources, and ease the burden of distance for these families. The initial implementations of the program included in-person visits for the initial assessment and a follow-up visit months into the training, as well as visits to a local pediatrician or clinic for a video conference with an expert doctor or professor.

The initial results from these telehealth programs are quite impressive. As published last year in Pediatrics, key symptoms are lowered, such as aggression, defiance and other challenging behaviors in children with autism, by more than 90 percent. Further advancements in the program even allowed for some families to obtain the services via Skype instead of visiting a clinic, extending the reach of the program to the most rural of all locations. The implementation of video and recording capabilities into the home provided additional advantages as the studies progressed, allowing the experts to capture aspects of behavior that would not be present in a clinical environment, such as routines when waking up each morning.

Telehealth programs are continuously being developed and improved, which allows for the initial diagnosis and ongoing care necessary to help the families, especially for those with children who have ASD.

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