Marshall Announces Funding for Research on Telehealth for Children with Autism

(Washington, D.C., April 6, 2021) – U.S. Senator Roger Marshall, M.D. today announced the University of Kansas (KU) received more than $500,000 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to study how telehealth can better support children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families and caregivers. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted care for children with autism and other developmental disorders,” said Senator Marshall, M.D. “Without access to in-person learning and clinical care, children with ASD have experienced negative outcomes including stress, anxiety, and developmental regression due to significantly altered routines. Telehealth has been a saving grace for patients with a wide range of health care needs, and it has the potential to be effective for treating ASD. I applaud the researchers at KU for evaluating the positive effects of telehealth and hope this study results in promising alternatives for the ASD community.” 


The project, funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, takes a deeper dive on how telehealth can be effective for children with ASD, as treatments have traditionally been given in-person. Specifically, researchers at KU will conduct a clinical trial enrolling parents and children with ASD to determine the effectiveness of remote teletherapy services, including personalized care.

A recent study evaluated the impact that COVID-19 has had on families and children with ASD, finding that over half of all families surveyed had reported professional treatments being disrupted and over 80 percent having school disruptions. In addition, 97 percent of parents and caregivers reported feeling overwhelmed or stressed due to disruptions in their child’s ASD services or therapies.

KU researchers note that the pandemic has led to more children with ASD being home-schooled and caregivers having to serve in the dual role of parent and teacher. Anxiety, lack of structure, and general uncertainty is associated with increased severity of repetitive behaviors and restricted interests. Early research suggests interventions delivered via telehealth for children with ASD may be just as effective as in-person interventions. For the project, parents will play a key role in implementing treatment for repetitive behaviors in children with ASD. In total, KU received $526,725.