ID 30 computer-based instruction, reading & communication skills

In References on June 30, 2009 at 7:55 am

Heimann, M., Nelson, K.E., Tjus, T., & Gillberg, C. (1995). Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 25, 459 -480.


This paper reports on the effect of using an interactive and child-initiated microcomputer program (Alpha) when teaching three groups of children

(N = 30) reading and communications skills: (a) 11 children with autism (M

chronological age, CA = 9:4 years), (b) 9 children with mixed handicaps

(M CA = 13:1), and (c) 10 normal preschool children (M CA = 6:4 years).

Their mental age varied from 5:8 years to 6:9 years and all children received computer instruction supplementary to their regular reading and writing

activities. Tests of reading and phonological development were carried out at

the onset of the training (Start), at the end (Post 1), and at a follow-up

evaluation (Post 2). In addition, video observations of the childrens’ verbal

and nonverbal communication were added at Start and Post 1. The children

with autism increased both their word reading and their phonological

awareness through the use of the Alpha program. Clearly significant gains were observed during the intervention, but none during the follow-up period. A similar but weaker pattern is observed for the children with mixed handicaps. In contrast, the normal preschool children increased their scores regardless of the program. Analyses of the children’s classroom behavior indicate that the intervention succeeded in stimulating verbal expressions among the children with autism and mixed handicap. A significant increase in enjoyment was also noted for the children with autism. It is concluded that the intervention with a motivating multimedia program might stimulate reading and communication in children with various developmental disabilities, but that such interventions must be individually based and include both detailed planning and monitoring from teachers, and parents, as well as from clinicians in charge.


Panyan (1984) published a review on the use of computers with children with autism. He noted that the computer technology offers greater possibilities for enhancing both interaction and attention, but that few systematic studies had been reported thus far. According to Panyan, computers could be used to address several areas relevant for people with autism, as for example: stimulus overselectivity, motivational support, and for improving interaction.


To date, several studies report on the positive use of computers for children with various developmental disabilities (e.g., Green & Clark, 1991; Light, 1988; Nelson, Prinz, Prinz, & Dalke, 1991; Romski & Sevcik, 1989; Underwood & Underwood, 1990), but solid data on the effectiveness of computers for children with autism are still lacking. Very few studies have presented observations from well-designed experiments or quasi-experiments and several of the reports also failed to report enough details as to how the actual training was carried out.


Furthermore, Romanczyk, Ekdahl, and Lockshin (1992) reported that they often have observed that even those children with autism that have explicitly expressed their preference for the computer tend to actually perform better with the teacher. Thus, we should not expect that CAI and related interventions will solve all the problems for children with autism. Rather, it is our view that computer-aided interventions might be of some help to some children with this diagnosis.


This paper presents observations and results from a quasi-experimental

field study aimed at investigating the effects of CAI that included a

highly motivating and interactive multimedia environment when teaching

children with autism reading and writing skills.




Reading: flash cards

Sentence imitation:

Phonological awareness

Communication: video recording of each child’s communicative behavior during one initial and one final lesson

          Complies, Off Task, Seeks Help, Verbal Expressions, and Enjoyment

Level of autism



 All three groups of children made considerable and significant progress within the Alpha program from the onset (Start) to the end of the training (Post 1). As presented in Table II, the children with autism progressed fi-om Alpha Lesson 5 (M = 4.9, SD 6.7) to lesson 22 (M = 22.2, SD = 15.6) wh~e the children with mixed handicaps on average went from lesson 7 (M = 73, SD = 7.2) to l_e_xson  19 (M = 19.9, SD = 8.2).



This study demonstrates that an interactive microcomputer learning

environment might facilitate language learning for children with autism as

well as for children with other handicaps such as cerebral palsy and mental

retardation. All groups of children showed considerable progress during

training and displayed significant increases in vocabulary as measured by

the built-in Alpha tests. In addition, strong generalized gains beyond the

Alpha materials were observed on tests measuring both word reading and

phonological awareness, as well as sentence imitation.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: