ID 67 computer vs. traditional instruction on reading

In References on June 30, 2009 at 8:00 am

Although they did not prove that computer assisted instruction was more effective than transitional book instruction method in terms of child’s reading achievement, this study shows one aspect of how children with autism can get benefits from computer-based learning:

1)    more practice time –more efficient

2)    more comfortable learning environment –providing more opportunities of social interaction.


Williams, C., Wright, B., Callaghan, G., & Coughlan, B. (2002). Do children with autism learn to read more readily by computer assisted instruction or traditional book methods?

Autism, 6, 71-91.


Some fear increased social withdrawal(Bernard-Opitz et al., 1990), the computer as a focus for obsession, or the encouragement of other obsessive compulsive behaviors (Powell, 1996). Fear of computer technologies mat also balance between the use of computers and other methods of teaching, computers could usefully be integrated into the teaching process (Panyan, 1984).


Theoretical benefits associated with computer assisted instruction

There are a number of theoretical reasons why CAI may be beneficial to learning in children with autism.

abnormalities in sensory perception lead to problems in discriminating and screening out unnecessary information (Frith, 1989)à look at “educating children with autism” ; focusing on a computer screen with minimal information presented may enhance the learning conditions for an autistic child.

The responsiveness of children with autism to environmental stimuli increases when events are more predictable (Reed, 1994). Establishing appropriate sequential responding, difficult in social interactions may be easier with computers (Yamamoto & Miya, 1999).


Computers can be programmed to control cues and limit confusing cues and they can build on learning experiences in small logical steps incorporating repetition and reinforcement (Panyan, 1984).


The ability of the learning environment to be immediate and capable of generating interest may be important in order to overcome problems with arousal and attention (Dawson & Lewy, 1989) and poor motivation (Damasio & Maurer, 1978). à update the references with recent studies


“The research suggests that computers can provide a more comfortable environment for creating opportunities for social interaction and communication in children with autism (Powell, 1996).”


Study description

Participants: 8 children with autism ages ranging from  age 3 – 5.

Design : a matched sample, cross over design

Assessment measures: formal testing material, observation

Time spent attending to reading material –computer> book

Social interaction in experimental time – computer> book

Reading achievement

Children’s language use


Limitations: due to small sample and experimental design, it was not possible to make meaningful comparisons between the children in the computer condition and those in the book condition.



Provided an appendix for scoring key for direct observations


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