The effectiveness of web-based interventions delivered to children and young people with neurodevelopmental disorders: Systematic review and meta-analysis
Hall, Charlotte L.
Davies, E. Bethan
Hollis, Chris P.
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BACKGROUNDThe prevalence of certain neurodevelopmental disorders, specifically autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), has been increasing over the last four decades. Nonpharmacological interventions are available that can improve outcomes and reduce associated symptoms such as anxiety, but these are often difficult to access. Children and young people are using the internet and digital technology at higher rates than any other demographic, but although Web-based interventions have the potential to improve health outcomes in those with long-term conditions, no previous reviews have investigated the effectiveness of Web-based interventions delivered to children and young people with neurodevelopmental disorders.OBJECTIVEThis study aimed to review the effectiveness of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of Web-based interventions delivered to children and young people with neurodevelopmental disorders.METHODSSix databases and one trial register were searched in August and September 2018. RCTs were included if they were published in a peer-reviewed journal. Interventions were included if they (1) aimed to improve the diagnostic symptomology of the targeted neurodevelopmental disorder or associated psychological symptoms as measured by a valid and reliable outcome measure; (2) were delivered on the Web; (3) targeted a youth population (aged ≤18 years or reported a mean age of ≤18 years) with a diagnosis or suspected diagnosis of a neurodevelopmental disorder. Methodological quality was rated using the Joanna Briggs Institute Critical Appraisal Checklist for RCTs.RESULTSOf 5140 studies retrieved, 10 fulfilled the inclusion criteria. Half of the interventions were delivered to children and young people with ASDs with the other five targeting ADHD, tic disorder, dyscalculia, and specific learning disorder. In total, 6 of the 10 trials found that a Web-based intervention was effective in improving condition-specific outcomes or reducing comorbid psychological symptoms in children and young people. The 4 trials that failed to find an effect were all delivered by apps. The meta-analysis was conducted on five of the trials and did not show a significant effect, with a high level of heterogeneity detected (n=182 [33.4%, 182/545], 5 RCTs; pooled standardized mean difference=-0.39; 95% CI -0.98 to 0.20; Z=-1.29; P=.19 [I2=72%; P=.006]).CONCLUSIONSWeb-based interventions can be effective in reducing symptoms in children and young people with neurodevelopmental disorders; however, caution should be taken when interpreting these findings owing to methodological limitations, the minimal number of papers retrieved, and small samples of included studies. Overall, the number of studies was small and mainly limited to ASD, thus restricting the generalizability of the findings.TRIAL REGISTRATIONPROSPERO International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews: CRD42018108824; http://www.crd.york.ac.uk/PROSPERO/display_record.php?ID=CRD42018108824.