Telehealth in India Experiences of Parents of Children with Autism

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I am interested in studying the use of technology to support delivery of instruction to train parents of children with Autism in India. India being the second most populous country in the world and home to nearly a fifth of the world’s population does not have an estimate of prevalence of autism (Rudhra et al., 2010). Some experts say that one in 68 children are diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in India (Kumar & Best, 2006).With nearly 70% of the population living in rural areas, access to community services for children with Autism is limited.

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The World Health Organization (WHO) identified geographical factor as the primary barrier for families in rural areas to receive services for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Likewise, most professional services for autism is concentrated in the big cities of India and hence families in rural or remote areas have limited access to evidence-based intervention. Thanks to the Digital Economy initiatives taken by the Indian government, India ranks as the second largest country in internet usage (Kumar & Best, 2006). Trailing behind China, it ranks higher than the USA in terms of internet users. Hence, the use of telemedicine technology such as ‘Telehealth’ could[AME2] help families overcome this barrier in a country like India.

Telehealth is a delivery model that uses digital information and communication technologies to provide therapeutic services remotely. Technologies include smartphone, mobile internet, mobile apps, videoconferencing, streaming media, and wireless communications. Now, Telehealth can reach out to any users regardless of their location, be it in a large city or any remote part of the country. This is made possible because of advanced technology tools at the hands of the users to include internet-enabled handheld devices, video conferences or live streaming of videos.

Taking advantage of technological advances, Telehealth utilizes parents to deliver social interventions to children with ASD. (McDu e et al. 2013; Vismara et al. 2012, 2013; Wainer and Ingersoll 2015). Parent training is an alternative and attractive intervention as it increases teaching opportunities and scope for generalization and reduces treatment cost significantly. As parents are a proficient long-lasting agent of change, it is worthy to invest in parent training. With the advancements in technology it is now possible to provide training over distance which would increase access to evidence-based interventions to families with limited resources in their community. Results of evidence-based interventions are encouraging for Telehealth services in treating disorders and refining the approaches. (Webb et al., 2010).

Presently in India there are only two institutions who are using a Telehealth model to deliver Parent training sessions virtually. The enrollment of parents has been increasing steadily and is predicted to continue to grow in the upcoming years. Therefore, I would like to study the experiences of parents of children with Autism using telehealth in India.

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