Practitioner perspective: COVID19 rapid shift to teletherapy for individuals on the autism spectrum

Genevieve Johnsson, Kim Bulkeley

Background: Prior to COVID 19, research into teletherapy models for individuals on the autism spectrum was slowly progressing. Following the onset of COVID 19, teletherapy became a necessity for continuity of services. Reviews of the literature on teletherapy have suggested that technology has not been a barrier for successful outcomes, but the research is still emerging for how to translate best practice autism support to the online environment. Aims: The aim of this research was to gain insight into the delivery of teletherapy and the implications for the broader disability sector workforce.

Methods: Data on experiences of delivering teletherapy were collected via survey from 141 allied health practitioners (speech pathologists, occupational therapists, psychologists, educators, and social workers) from four Australian states and territories in an autism-specific, not-for profit organisation.

Results: In this presentation we will discuss two key themes; a) an increase in preparation time as practitioners adapted therapy supports for the online environment, with concerns raised about unbillable activities that impact on service sustainability and; b) teletherapy shifted practitioner expectations in the role of parents, which may lead to parent/practitioner incongruency in teletherapy service expectations.

Conclusions: While COVID 19 has brought forward incredible advances in telehealth models of practice, what’s needed now is to further understand what works, for who, and in which context. This will inform practice guidelines and training for new graduates and practitioners, as well as information for service users on what to expect.