Researchers say that web-based training to teach ABA strategies to parents of children with autism could be especially beneficial for families living in rural areas. (Shutterstock)

Researchers say that web-based training to teach ABA strategies to parents of children with autism could be especially beneficial for families living in rural areas. (Shutterstock)

Using web-based technology to teach parents the strategies of applied behavior analysis could offer big gains for kids with autism, new research suggests.

In a small study of rural parents who participated in a series of online tutorials and videoconferencing sessions, researchers found that they could help moms and dads substantially increase their knowledge of ABA and apply the techniques without forcing the families to make long drives to a clinic.

The finding could have particularly big implications for families living in remote communities that lack therapy offerings, researchers said.

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“Autism spectrum disorders, now estimated to affect 1 in 68 children, are just as common in rural America, but ABA-trained professionals are rare,” said Linda Heitzman-Powell of the University of Kansas who worked on the study published in the journal Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities.

Heitzman-Powell and her colleagues said the training method they developed — known as Online and Applied System for Intervention Skills, or OASIS — helped parents increase their knowledge of ABA strategies by an average of 39 percent. What’s more, parents who took part in the training improved their implementation of the strategies by 41 percent overall, researchers said.

Four families with children on the spectrum participated in the study, each of whom completed a series of online tutorials and at least 13 videoconferencing sessions with a coach. Parents also used an online interface to report on their use of the strategies with their child.

Since completing the initial study, researchers say they’ve further tested OASIS with nearly 40 families with similarly promising findings.