Pragmatic adaptations of telehealth-delivered caregiver coaching for children with autism in the context of COVID-19: Perspectives from the United States and South Africa

Autism. 2022 Jan;26(1):270-275. doi: 10.1177/13623613211022585. Epub 2021 Jun 8.


COVID-19 caused many autism spectrum disorder caregiver-coaching studies to move to telehealth. Telehealth can increase the diversity of people who take part in research. This matters because most autism spectrum disorder studies have included people who have resources, are White, and live in North America and Europe. When study participants are similar, it is hard to understand which interventions can help different types of people who live in different parts of the world. While telehealth may allow more people to take part in research, it needs to "fit" the local context and consider the "digital divide" because many people around the world have no access to computers and the Internet. This short report describes changes to two research studies that include caregiver coaching based on the Early Start Denver Model in the United States and South Africa. We describe how the local context, including technology and Internet access, guided the telehealth approach. By doing so, we highlight ways to make telehealth available to more people around the world. The pandemic can help us understand how telehealth can "fit" diverse places and support high-quality research. It is important that study changes are tracked and we assess how well the changes work. COVID-19 telehealth changes to caregiver coaching can result in new ways to reach more people around the world.

Keywords: adaptation; autism spectrum disorder; caregiver coaching; digital divide; telehealth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder* / therapy
  • Autistic Disorder*
  • COVID-19*
  • Caregivers
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Mentoring*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • South Africa
  • Telemedicine*
  • United States