International Meeting for Autism Research: Efficacy of a Computer-Assisted ABA Intervention In a Study of 90 Preschool Students

Efficacy of a Computer-Assisted ABA Intervention In a Study of 90 Preschool Students

Thursday, May 12, 2011
Elizabeth Ballroom E-F and Lirenta Foyer Level 2 (Manchester Grand Hyatt)
9:00 AM
C. Whalen1 and L. Lara-Brady2, (1)TeachTown, Burlingame, CA, (2)Research, TeachTown, Burlingame, CA
Background: Numerous studies have shown that ABA-based (Applied Behavior Analysis) interventions produce some of the most promising results for children with ASD.  In recent years, computer programs have been developed as another option for ABA-delivery and have shown some effectiveness for training service providers as well as for direct instruction for children.  TeachTown: Basics is an ABA-based computer-assisted intervention that was designed to meet the developmental needs of children with ASD in the 2-7 year developmental range. The program includes computer lessons to teach language, cognitive, academic, and social skills, and also includes naturalistic off-computer activities to facilitate generalization and target skills not taught on the computer.

Objectives: This study investigated the effectiveness of the TeachTown: Basics intervention with 90 ASD and other special needs students in a preschool program in Killeen, Texas with teacher implementation.

Methods:    Eight schools and 14 teachers participated with 64 students using TeachTown: Basics during and 26 students in the comparison group.  Students in the intervention group differed only from the comparison group in that 1:1 ABA time was replaced with computer-delivered ABA through TeachTown: Basics (15-20 minutes/day for preschool and two 20-minute sessions/day for Pre-K). In addition, teachers were instructed to implement off computer activities throughout the school day as appropriate for each student (1:1 or small group).   To assess on-going progress, the TeachTown: Basics software collects data on student responses, duration of intervention, prompting, and mastery of skills. All students using TeachTown: Basics were assessed through this automatic data collection process.  Developmental gains were also measured using the Brigance Inventory of Early Development (IED).  To assess the impact of the intervention, differences in IED scores were accounted through a two way repeated measures ANOVA (pre/ post scores vs treatment group). The independent variable was the number of hours spent on using TeachTown:Basics and the dependent variable was the change in scores between the pre and post IED scores in each domain.  Data gathered from the IED was also analyzed using T-tests and a within-subjects ANOVA. A t-test was used to check for any gains per group per IED domain. Additionally, a within-subjects ANOVA was used to analyze the performance of students with autism as a primary diagnoses and students with other diagnoses in the IED per domain.

Results:   Results demonstrated that students that received the intervention made more developmental gains than students in the comparison group despite being higher functioning at baseline. A positive correlation was found between the amount of time students spent on the software and results in the IED, however results was not significant. Students with ASD performed at similar levels as students with other diagnoses after receiving the intervention.

Conclusions: The results of this study have important implications for special education and ABA programming and will hopefully encourage more research in the area of technology-based interventions designed for use by teachers.  Student outcome, consistency of use, and social validity data will be shared and discussed.

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