A trial of an iPad™ intervention targeting social communication skills in children with autism

Researchers of the Patrick Wild Centre investigated whether playing a specially-designed iPad™ game could help young children with autism develop basic social skills. They recruited 54 children aged under 6 years old who all had a diagnosis of autism, and they were randomly sorted into intervention (working with the iPad for 2 months) and control (no special support) groups. The game was enjoyed by the children and rated highly by parents – children played for about ten minutes per day consistently across the 2 month period, and they got better at the game, regardless of their general ability level. However, the assessments carried out with children before and after working with the iPad™ showed that the game didn’t change children’s social behaviours in the real world. The researchers measured this using parent questionnaires and also by observing children while playing with their parent. They recommend caution about the potential usefulness of iPad™ apps, especially for teaching interactive skills.  However, positive attitudes among participants, lack of negative effects and the potential of apps to provide cheap, accessible learning opportunities suggest this approach is worth pursuing further, perhaps targeting other types of learning.

Link to video summary of this research: http://m.aut.sagepub.com/content/early/2015/10/23/1362361315605624/suppl/DC1

Link to full research paper: http://m.aut.sagepub.com/content/early/2015/10/23/1362361315605624.full.pdf