Supporting children with autism, their parents and teachers through tele-consultancy

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Researchers at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), led by Dr Beth Saggers, are working on a project to determine whether remote tele-consultancy is effective in supporting staff in rural and remote regions who are working with students with diverse educational needs. The project aims to develop guidelines to apply tele-health delivery to education settings.

The Early Years Behaviour Support Program has been developed to provide individualised and contextualised support to children on the autism spectrum and staff in rural and remote regions. This is one of five projects to have extended reach under the Autism CRC collaboration with Positive Partnerships.

The Project Team has just completed the first year of the project, working with teachers, other educational staff and families in three schools in rural and regional New South Wales and Queensland. Early results have been very positive and have shown that the school, the parents and the child benefit from the tele-consultancy approach.

“The Program provides parents and teachers with ongoing individualised support with specialist staff through a combination of face to face visits, remote conferencing, email and phone calls,” said Beth.

“Consultants provide a range of practical advice including classroom set up and strategies for teachers to plan for and respond to incidences. In our trial, we found the consultant was also instrumental in building a positive relationship between the school and the parents.”

A significant benefit of the program is providing more support to young teachers in rural and remote regions who can feel isolated without the knowledge and resources needed to support children on the spectrum effectively.

“By providing tools and strategies to support the child on the spectrum, along with building a positive relationship between the school and the family, behavioural incidences, such as meltdowns, for one child in our trial reduced from 12 in Term One to zero in Term Four.”

“Teachers also reported that they were able to translate the new skills they had learned to support other children in the class, and to provide students with a positive transition into the new school year with the new teacher.”

The collaboration with Positive Partnerships allows Autism CRC to extend the project to a further two remote schools in the 2017 trial.

Positive Partnerships National Director, Jacqui Borland said the team is looking forward to working with Autism CRC on the project.

“Drawing on the emerging findings from this project, and the other projects as part of our collaboration with Autism CRC, will ensure that resources for school staff and parents and carers continue to reflect best practice approaches to supporting children on the autism spectrum across Australia,” said Jacqui.

Following the three-year trial, the Project Team will define an evidence-based tele-consultancy model for educational settings and establish good practice guidelines that can be used to deliver support to children in regional and remote areas. The team will also assess the applicability of the program to other geographical locations such as metropolitan areas.

The NRHA is an Autism CRC Participant.

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