Grant expands Telehealth Autism Project's global reach in Africa
Since 2016, the Telehealth ABA World Project at University of Houston-Clear Lake has been educating and coaching parents, teachers and caregivers of children with autism around the globe- an almost round-the-clock effort powered without funds by volunteer board certified behavior analysts.
Loukia Tsami, the Project's program manager and research associate at UH-Clear Lake's Center for Autism and Developmental Disorders, has received a grant from the Society for the Advancement of Behavioral Analysis (SABA) to help reach people in countries without access to behavioral services where often internet access is sporadic or unavailable.
"Faculty and students involved with our project have been providing free services to individuals around the world to support families of children with autism," Tsami said. "We also document our work with publications in peer-reviewed journals. The funding we have received from SABA is an international grant to support the distribution of behavior analysis globally, which aligns very well with the goals of the Telehealth ABA World Project."
Tsami said the $1,000 grant from SABA would support continued research in the dissemination of behavior analysis, and was matched with an additional $1,000 from CADD.
She said the funds have already been put to use, with plans to purchase modems and pay for internet service fees. "Till now, we have only been able to offer services to those with access to internet," she said. "In places like Liberia, where we have already many colleagues and have done extensive work, only about 15% of the population has internet access, which is a prerequisite to receive our services. Having some money available gives us the ability to serve more parents and professionals who have no access to internet. In some countries, these people are in the majority."
The funds will be targeted to broaden services in Kenya, Liberia and Ethiopia. "We already have many connections and colleagues in these countries, but we have been limited in what we could offer," she said. "Now we can bring teachers together in a central location that will have internet access and begin having regular training. Parents are also waiting for us to get set up for training on weekends."
The Telehealth ABA World Project has been invited to present their research at an upcoming international conference in Boston. "Our goal is to publish our data so others can use the model we have been using and improve it and replicate it so that we can reach more people," she said.
Tsami and other Board Certified Behavior Analysts offer training and support in over 30 countries by establishing a two-way interactive video connection between their own computer and the parents' device. Parents are coached to interact with their children in ways that will help the behavior analysts understand why the children are engaging in problem behavior.
The Project also gives presentations to large groups of professionals and parents to educate them about autism and behavior therapies that can help. Services can include the assistance of an interpreter for those families who do not speak English.