This month we profile PhD student Genevieve Johnsson. Genevieve is a psychologist with Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) who is currently completing a PhD focussing on tele-health.
Please tell us a little about yourself
I have been practising as a psychologist with Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) for the past nine years and am currently in the role of Senior Therapy Support – Innovation. My current role focusses on developing and delivering innovative projects to direct autism-specific support to underserved areas where it is most needed. Over the years I have supported children on the autism spectrum and their families across a broad range of environments including home, preschool and in centres. I am passionate about early intervention for children on the spectrum and the use of community capacity building as a way to achieve the best outcomes for the child and their family. I am currently completing a PhD within the Faculty of Health Sciences focussing on tele-health.
What is your research on?
Significant recruitment and retention issues plague the rural and remote disability sector leading to extensive waitlists and long hours of travel to see allied health specialists. My research focusses on the use of technology as a possible solution to increase the accessibility of disability training and support in regional, rural and remote areas of Australia. This training aims to build capacity in all local service providers, including allied health, educators, and social and community workers, so that children on the autism spectrum can receive the vital early intervention support in the community in which they live.
A framework of support was developed based on a needs analysis in 2015 and includes online group webinars on a range of topics, and online individual support. The aim of the current research project is to investigate the effectiveness of the program, as well as the participants engagement with technology. Do participants prefer and are more frequently engaged in live sessions or recorded sessions? Was technology a feasible solution for delivering continuing professional development in regional, rural and remote areas?
What are the real world consequences of your research?
The significance of this project in that online technology has the potential to provide all staff in geographically isolated areas access to learning and support that may improve their skills and the level of support they can provide children on the autism spectrum. This will break down barriers to accessing vital early intervention services at a time when children and their families need it most. These findings will also guide researchers in the development of an evidence-based model of supporting rural and remote staff working with children with autism and developmental disability.
What does digital health mean to you?
Digital health means we can train and support staff in isolated areas to deliver best-practice autism support well ahead of when they would typically access face to face disability specialists. As the NDIS continues to roll out into rural and remote areas, the addition of digital health will be vital in keeping up with the demand of these services in rural and remote areas. Many barriers such as the quality of internet connections and staff attitudes in preferring face to face over tele-health have evolved over the last decade and we are coming into an age where digital health will become the norm in remote areas. This notion motivates me to further the evidence-base behind this practice.
Thank you to Genevieve for being our May feature!