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Autism Spectrum Disorder: Potential Presence in Online College Community

Thursday, 2 May 2013: 14:00-18:00
Banquet Hall (Kursaal Centre)
D. Satterfield1, C. Lepage2 and N. Ladjahasan3, (1)Graphic Design, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, (2)Pediatric Neurology, Sutter Neuroscience Institute, Sacramento, CA, (3)IDRO, Iowa State University, Ames, IA
Background:  The literature has shown that many people with an ASD have repetitive behaviors as well as difficulty with transitions and problem solving.  These atypical patterns are only a part of the constellation of functional impairments seen in ASD.  These behaviors however, significantly impact adaptive skills, educational success, and professional development. 

Engineering and Human Computer Interaction (HCI) students at Iowa State University completed an online course addressing human-computer interface technology for persons with supportive needs. During this course, students were provided with information about autism and some of these students indicated suspicion for a self-diagnosis of social skills deficits.  Following this interesting pattern, the 42 adult students who recently completed the course were asked to participate in the current project.

 For the current project, each of the 42-students were asked retrospectively (after the conclusion of the course) to complete the Ritvo Autism-Asperger’s Diagnostic Scale Revised (RAADS-R) as well as a questionnaire inquiring about their course experience. RAADS-R results divided the students into two groups: those scoring at or above research-validated threshold and those scoring below.

Objectives:  The objectives of this study were 1) to investigate the potential presence of patterns seen on the autism spectrum in students completing an online university-level design course and 2) review the feedback of two groups: those meeting or exceeding ASD cut-off scores on the RAADS-R and those who did not.

Methods:  Full approval was obtained from the ISU IRB. Consent for participation was obtained from each student participant. Students (n=42) who recently completed the online design course were asked to complete the RAADS-R, a research validated tool designed to clarify the possible presence of an autism spectrum disorder in adults.  Two clusters were established: 1) Meets or exceeds RAADS-R threshold, and 2) below RAADS-R threshold.  Course feedback was evaluated from the perspective of the two groups. Numerical data was formulated and reviewed based on the response patterns.

Results:  At the time of this submission, data collection is underway and scheduled to be completed in December 2012.  Demographic data is to be determined, but includes number of males and females, age range, ethnic background, RAADS-R results, and discussion of response patterns.

Conclusions:  Hypothesis include 1) Based on RAADS-R responses, an emerging trend toward previously unidentified patterns suggestive of autism-like patterns in the online university-student population and 2) Patterns of perseveration on course minutiae in these different populations. Future courses will consider the potential utility of this information, such as modifying course designs and outcome expectations.

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