Telehealth offers the potential to address inequalities in autism service access for young children living in regional and rural areas with limited access to autism specialists. Our aim was to explore parent and practitioner uses of technology, and views about telehealth, including perceived barriers, for autism early intervention service delivery in a regional town in Australia. Fifteen mothers and 19 front-line autism practitioners completed surveys distributed by local autism service and support providers in the regional town; eight front-line practitioners from one service participated in interviews. Mothers and practitioners had access to technology that could be used for video-communication, but had little or no experience with telehealth. Mothers appeared more willing to try telehealth for receiving autism services than practitioners appeared to believe, and practitioners preferred to use it for consulting with other professionals and professional development. Barriers to telehealth included limited experience and practitioners not knowing what a telehealth service would look like, poor access to reliable and high speed internet, lack of skill and technical supports, and practitioners believing families preferred face-to-face services. The success of telehealth in this regional town will rely on better infrastructure, and upskilling practitioners in evidence-based autism interventions so they can provide the required support remotely. Use of telehealth to upskill practitioners in evidence-based practice could provide a first step in ensuring equitable access to expert autism services to regional and rural families.
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