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Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the extent to which human service providers can safely deliver close-contact therapies in which social distancing cannot occur. Applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is one such example, with the pandemic creating several barriers to safely delivering this essential service. The present paper describes the development and administration of a risk assessment and mitigation toolkit that was designed for ABA providers to make decisions about how to identify and mitigate risk in delivering therapeutic services to children with ASD. The toolkit includes considerations for clients, other household members, providers, and treatment space to mitigate risks of COVID-19 exposure and spread. Three Board Certified Behavior Analysts piloted the toolkit with 20 clients. The findings indicate the toolkit can be used to identify situations in which a client, family member, or provider may be at higher risk and ensure increased mitigation strategies in such situations. Although developed for use in ABA treatment, the toolkit could potentially be modified for use across a range of educational and human service situations that provide similar close-contact therapies.

Plain Language Summary

The COVID-19 pandemic presented many barriers to delivery of behavioral health services. Applied behavior analysis for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is one example. Yet it is important to maintain ABA services for people with ASD to help them achieve long-term life goals. This paper describes a toolkit that helps ABA providers decrease risk during a pandemic. Three providers used the toolkit with 20 children who had ASD. The toolkit helped providers make decisions that maintained safety from COVID-19. The results showed the toolkit can be useful to ABA providers. The toolkit could also be useful in other situations that provide close-contact therapies.

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