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Technology and ASD

Burton, C.E., Anderson, D.H., Prater, M.A., Dyches, T.T. (2013). Video self-modeling on an iPad to teach functional math skills to adolescents with autism and intellectual disability. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 28(2), 76-77.

Advances in technology for special education have exploded in the last few years. Research into the use of technology-based interventions as an evidence-based practice is struggling to keep up with the fast-paced changes in smartphones, apps, and other types of devices and software. It is now known that some types of technology show a great deal of promise in helping students with ASD target communication, social, independent functioning, and even academic skills. One particularly promising technology-based intervention is video self-modeling (VSM). In this study, the authors examined the effects of VSM on mathematic performance for four middle school students with ASD. VSM was implemented twice daily, 4 days a week using a flip video camcorder, Windows Live Movie Maker, and an iPad. Five different videos were created for each participant. Student one had a 74% increase in correct responses, student two had an 86% increase in correct responses, student three had a 98.5% increase in correct responses, and student four had a 84.5% increase in correct responses using VSM. Results reveal a significant improvement in student performance. The authors suggest that while there are limitations in the study, VSM may be considered as an effective technology-based intervention for students with ASD in the classroom.


Gelbar, N.W., Anderson, C., & McCarthy, S. (2011). Video self-modeling as an intervention strategy for individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Psychology in the Schools, 49(1), 15-22.

Technology has the potential to benefit individuals with ASD throughout their lifespan. Video modeling is one of many technology-based interventions that shows promise in teaching a variety of different skills. Video modeling can include video-self modeling, videos with peers (video peer-modeling), and videos with adults. A review of studies demonstrates that video modeling preferences vary among individuals and skills being targeted. This article provides an overview of VSM in terms of addressing language and communication skills, social skills, behavioral intervention, and task instruction. The research suggests that VSM is successful in increasing language and communication skills, social skills, and task instruction, but was not as successful at targeting behaviors, although there appears to be some evidence that VSM may be helpful at targeting classroom behaviors. The authors suggest that future research is needed to understand the profiles of students who do respond to VSM and to understand which groups of individuals with ASD respond to the various types of video self-modeling, video peer-modeling, and videos with adults as role models.


Knight, V., McKissick, B.R., & Saunders, A. (2013). A review of technology-based interventions to teach academic skills to students with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 43, 2628-2648.

There has been an increased interest in the use of technology for those with ASD over the past few years, especially in the application of computers, smartphones, iPads, iPods, and other high tech opportunities to teach communication skills and facilitate the use of a wide variety of other skills. The question many people have, both parents and professionals, is what technological interventions work best with individuals with ASD? This review examines whether or not technology can be considered an evidence-based practice in teaching new skills to this population. This review uses the evidence-based criteria set forth by Horner and Gersten to evaluate more than 400 studies from 1973-2012 regarding the use of technology-based interventions for individuals with ASD. Of the 400 studies, 65 met the criteria. Studies examined utilized a variety of instructional strategies including systematic instruction, simultaneous prompting, differential reinforcement, error correction, feedback procedures, delayed prompting, stimulus prompting, stimulus fading, and reinforcement. Of the 65 studies that met the criteria, only four were of acceptable quality. This review suggests that technology-based interventions should be used with caution and that technology-based interventions should be used in partnership within evidence-based systematic instructional strategies.


Mechling, L.C. (2011). Review of twenty-first century portable electronic devices for persons with moderate intellectual disabilities and autism spectrum disorders. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 46(4), 479-498.

With the advent of cheaper, smaller, and more portable technological devices, more and more families and professionals are turning to electronics as a support for individuals with ASD. As smartphones and tablets have become more advanced and readily available, these devices have been used to assist with task analysis, skill development, decision making, organization, way-finding, and in many other situations. The question is though, how effective are these devices? This review from 2011 covers research into the use of technological devices from 2000-2010. The review includes 21 studies that examined a wide variety of devices including older devices, such as PDAs and palmtops, and newer devices, such as smartphones, iDevices, and MP3 players, for use with individuals with ASD and moderate intellectual disabilities. Because technology changes so quickly and the use of such devices with individuals with ASD is still fairly new, research is limited; however, this review demonstrated positive results across participants and environments with participants demonstrating increased independence, improved behavior, organization, and accuracy. It should be noted that despite such positive results, these types of technological supports are not often implemented with individuals with ASD and moderate intellectual disabilities. Although the authors suggest that electronic devices are not appropriate for everyone, evaluation of such devices should always be considered, as the use of such devices may have many positive benefits not previously considered.


Smith, B.R., Spooner, F., & Wood, C.L. (2013). Using embedded computer-assisted explicit instruction to teach science to students with autism spectrum disorder. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 7, 433-443.

In the past few years, the emphasis on and importance of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education for today's youth has exploded. Unfortunately, there is little research on teaching many of these concepts to students with ASD. This study examines how effective computer aided instruction (CAI) is with teaching science terms and applications to students with ASD. Three middle school students with ASD, ages 11-12, were provided with computer-aided science instruction on an iPad. The students were shown a CAI slideshow three times in a 40-minute period during science instruction in an inclusive classroom. Before the intervention, the first and second student's scores were 2-4 correct responses and the third student's scores were 1-4 correct responses. During and after the intervention, the first student's correct responses increased to 13, the second student's correct responses increased to 12, and the third student's correct responses increased to 13. The results of this limited study suggests that computer aided instruction may be beneficial in teaching science-based terms and applications for students with ASD.

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