International Meeting for Autism Research: Enhancing Motivation through Computer-Assisted Instructional Practices

Enhancing Motivation through Computer-Assisted Instructional Practices

Friday, May 21, 2010
Franklin Hall B Level 4 (Philadelphia Marriott Downtown)
9:00 AM
C. Whalen , TeachTown, Seattle, WA
Background: Enhanced motivation has been demonstrated to improve skill acquisition, language, social behaviors, generalization, and decrease problem behaviors (e.g. Koegel, Koegel, and McNerney, 2001).  This effect has been shown in numerous computer-assisted instruction interventions (e.g. Moore & Calvert, 2000).  With increasing numbers of students with ASD,  decreasing funding and resources, and increasing numbers of studies supporting its efficacy, CAI is becoming a viable option for schools and families to educate children with ASD.  TeachTown: Basics is a CAI program that has demonstrated efficacy with parent (Whalen, et al., 2006) and teacher implementation (Whalen, et al., 2010).  This program teaches language, academic-cognitive, adaptive, and social skills through computerized ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis), and includes a comprehensive curriculum of supplementary activities for the natural environment using TeachTown Connection Activities, based on naturalistic teaching strategies such as Pivotal Response Training (PRT).

Objectives:  In this study, student motivation while using the computer was assessed using the TeachTown: Basics program. 

Methods:  Videotapes of 47 preschool and K-1 students with ASD were assessed by graduate student blind raters to measure motivation using the following behaviors: attention to task, positive affect, spontaneous language, joint attention, social initiations, and problem behaviors while using the TeachTown: Basics computer program and while interacting in a 1:1 teaching situation (either regular classroom activity or TeachTown Connection Activities with a teacher or other classroom staff.  One half of the students were assessed at 3 months and again at 6 months to assess changes in behavior over time.

Results:  Overall, students demonstrated increased motivation (based on increases in behaviors listed above) on the computer vs. other 1:1 teaching situations.  This increased motivation did not significantly decrease at 6 months vs. 3 months.

Conclusions: This study supports previous research indicating that children with ASD may demonstrate increased motivation on the computer compared to other teaching situations.  It also shows evidence for potential positive collateral effects using CAI, including enhanced positive affect and socialization with adults.  Further research in this area will assess how motivation can be further enhanced using the computer and other types of media, and how enhanced motivation may lead to stronger intervention outcomes in the school environment.