The reality of teletherapy during COVID lockdown for practitioners and carers of people on the Autism Spectrum.
Background: In March 2020, a lockdown was implemented to manage health risks posed by COVID19, reducing access to therapeutic support services for people on the autism spectrum. Autism Spectrum Australia rapidly shifted to online delivery of allied health supports. Teletherapy became a necessity for continuity of services during the lockdown.
Aims: This research will add to the understanding of teletherapy for individuals with autism, capture practice-based insights and contribute to the integration of teletherapy lessons from the COVID pivot.
Methods: Surveys were completed by allied health practitioners (n=141) on their experience more broadly and service users (n=806 responses) following individual teletherapy sessions. Questions focused on their experience of teletherapy capturing both qualitative and quantitative data.
Results: Thematic analysis revealed the following themes; 1) technology – love it or hate it 2) teletherapy as a “new normal”, 3) short term pain, for long term gain 4) the shape of service delivery has changed, 5) is teletherapy always an option? Data from the quantitative analysis showed a significant correlation between the technical quality of a teletherapy session and the perceived level of support provided. Practitioners indicated a high rate (82%) of intention to continue using teletherapy and that 46% of families were willing to continue teletherapy.
Conclusions: COVID 19 has helped us understand the reality of teletherapy in a short period of time, and to reflect on possibilities. Future research on the experiences of individuals on the autism spectrum and their local support teams will assist with incorporating teletherapy as part of business as usual.