Online Therapy Program to Help Fight Autism

I came across this article via Mashable and thought I’d share…

Online Therapy Program to Help Fight Autism

by Samantha Murphy

Skills for Autism

Research shows that nearly half of kids with autism can make improvements toward recovery by undergoing therapy in the early stages of their development.

But one-on-one therapy can be extremely costly and go on for years, and access to good treatment can sometimes to be limited to certain cities and regions.

To help kids fight autism, the Tarzana, Calif.-based Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD) has put its intensive therapy program online to train parents and educators worldwide on how to best teach kids autistic children the skills they need.

Called Skills, the platform gives users access to the tools and curriculums needed to work with kids with autism. The service determines the areas a child needs to work on the most and walks parents and teachers through how to instill those skills.

It also provides visual examples and videos of the center’s therapists working with autistic children so they can emulate the same tactics.

“We have been doing one-on-one intervention for years, but we wanted to make our resources available to everyone on a global scale,” Dr. Adel Najdowski, director of Skills at CARD, told Mashable. “It would be like finding a cure for cancer and not spreading the news. We want everyone to have access to the treatment.”

Autism is the fastest rising major childhood disorder, according to CARD. In fact, one in every 110 children in the U.S. has autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and more children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with AIDS, diabetes and cancer combined, Najdowski added.

But studies show that 50% of children with autism that receive Applied Behavior Analysis intervention for 30 or more hours per week for two or more years beginning before the age of 5 can recover, Najdowski said.

“Recovering” refers to performing at a normal level on standardized tests — measuring IQ, language, socialization and daily living skills — as well as being integrated into a regular education classroom without specialized supports.

Although one hour of private therapy can cost between $45 and $75, the Skills platform is priced at $75 for each month — bringing down the therapy rate from $27,000 each year (for treatment 30 hours a week) to $900.

The program — which features 4,000 lesson activities and curriculums across every skill level — was designed to help train those with limited or no experience teaching autistic children. Parents, teachers and the center’s supervisors can access the Skills service at any time from any location to track the child’s progress.

“We can log on at the center and interact with a family using the service in India and make individualized recommendations,” Najdowski said. “We are also available through webchat, over the phone and in person.”

Since its launch last year, Skills is currently in 105 school districts across 7 countries and it aims to reach more parents in the future. It’s currently available for a 14-day free trial for parents and a 30-day free trial for professionals.

“We hope to use the platform more in the future to ask research questions,” Najdowski said. “Since we have a targeted pool of people, we might be able to learn more about possible causes of autism in the future.”

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