Saturday, January 10, 2015

iPads and Autism

The article I read was a study involving providing students on the Autism Spectrum with iPads.  These students range in age from 10-13, but are functioning around 72 months of age.  The iPads were used to focus on basic math concepts using apps.  Student challenges included moderate to severe developmental delays in communication, socialization, and behavior.  Teachers wanted to find out a few things:
1. Does the iPad intervention improve basic math skills?
2. Does the iPad intervention reduce noncompliant behaviors?
3. Does the iPad intervention increase independent task completion?
4. What are the advantages of and challenges to using iPads® for classroom
The school used a standardized test called the LAP-3 to assess student development; it is a test designed for young children, and identifies progress toward development in areas such as: gross motor, fine motor, pre-writing, cognitive, language, self-help, and personal/social.  The students took this assessment as a pre and post test during the study.  The results of student achievement were mixed.  There was improvement with 5 out of 7 students’ scores, but there was not necessarily proof that the iPads are what made that improvement.  There was also mixed results about iPads affecting noncompliant behaviors.   The most successful aspect of the study was that student independence was increased 100%.  
I found it slightly unnerving that I just read a study that had mixed or no results about the effectiveness of using technology with students to increase skill level, however I was happy to read that student independence increased.  When I think back to the population that this study encompassed, students on the Autism Spectrum, I am happy to realize that the technology was effective with their independence.  However, to find out that the authors were not willing to attribute the iPads to student academic success is less exciting to hear.  
I read this article because I have a student on the spectrum that I have increasingly become worried about, mostly with his independence because he is extremely high academically.  In my school district, we have MacBooks for all students in 4th Grade, and I was interested in the findings of teachers using iPads instead.  I could use websites to do similar things with my student, but since the students in this article were so much further delayed academically, I’m not sure I could find appropriate technology resources to help him practice the skills we are working on, like this school was able to do.  I believe that the most important takeaway from this study is that technology increases independence in students on the Autism Spectrum, and reading this article gives me hope that I can find the tools to do the same in my school.

O'Malley, Patricia, M.E.B Lewis, and Claire Donehower. "Using Tablet Computers as
Instructional Tools to Increase Task Completion by Students with Autism." Online
Submission, Paper Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational
Research Association, Apr. 2013. Web. 10 Jan. 2015.