Academic Minute Podcast

Daniel Bagner, Florida International University – Telehealth Programs Benefit Young Children with Developmental Delay

On Florida International University Week: Telehealth has brought a new option to families who need it.

Daniel Bagner, professor of psychology and director of clinical training, explores the benefit for those whose children need an extra hand.

Dr. Daniel Bagner is a Professor of Psychology and Director of Clinical Training at Florida International University (FIU). A licensed and board-certified clinical child psychologist, Dr. Bagner studies interventions for at-risk infants and young children and their families and etiological models of early childhood behavior problems at the Center for Children and Families. He has published more than 100 scientific papers on these topics and has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the past 20 years to conduct his research. Dr. Bagner currently serves on the editorial board for five journals and regularly reviews research grants submitted to the NIH. He is involved in several professional and community organizations, including his role as the FIU representative to the board of directors for The Children’s Trust, an organization with a dedicated source of revenue to fund strategic investments that improve the lives of children and families in Miami-Dade County, Florida.

Telehealth Programs Benefit Young Children with Developmental Delay

About 1 in 6 children in the U.S. have a developmental delay. One of the most common delays in young children is a language or speech delay.

Children with a language or speech delay are three times more likely to show behavioral problems, such as aggression and noncompliance. And, behavior problems in young children can have cascading effects throughout their life, including academic problems and difficulties with their peers. Parents seeking care for their children often face many obstacles: Financial challenges, shortages of mental health clinicians, and fear of stigma, to name a few. Is there an effective strategy to address these barriers and provide children with the care they need?

That’s what my colleague, Dr. Jonathan Comer, and I wanted to find out. We wondered if telehealth therapy might offer the same benefits as “face-to-face” therapy given the increased use of remote mental health services, especially now after the pandemic.

So, we tested a telehealth version of parent-child interaction therapy — or PCIT —considered a gold-standard treatment. While current early intervention services focus on treating delays, they don’t address associated behavior problems.

PCIT does.

Therapists provide “live” or in-the-moment coaching to caregivers using a wireless headset and through a webcam while they play with their child and manage their child’s behavior. The telehealth version of PCIT was virtually identical to the clinic version – other than the fact that it was virtual. This telehealth option not only expanded service and care, especially for underserved families like those in our study, it led to fewer child behavior problems and improvements in the relationship between the children and their caregivers.

And children did a better job following their caregivers’ directions and instructions— a critically important skill for entering kindergarten.


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