Development of a Mobile Application for Early Literacy and Language Intervention in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Friday, May 13, 2016: 10:00 AM-1:30 PM
Hall A (Baltimore Convention Center)
N. J. Rasche1 and O. Wendt2, (1)Computer Graphics Technology, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, (2)Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
Background: Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) exhibit deficits in both expressive and receptive language development. Substantial delays in literacy skills, specifically comprehension abilities, are influenced by these deficits. These children struggle with reading for meaning and lack the ability to comprehend text (Randi, 2010). Identification of letters and recognition of sight words are inconsistent. An intervention strategy to improve comprehension must put “an emphasis on their ability to understand language as well as working on their expressive language and communication skills” (Weismer, 2010). One possible intervention approach is multi-skill language instruction using a visual representation of an object with the orthography while teaching expressive communication. In order to assess this type of intervention and test its validity as a tool to improve early language and literacy, a mobile application was developed.  

Objectives: The objective was to design a mobile application that will target the delay in literacy skills, specifically comprehension, by teaching expressive and receptive language together. The goals for the application are listed below.

1)      Use the early literacy skill of labeling to teach receptive and expressive language skills while monitoring any improvement in learning the meaning of new words. A prototype was piloted in a university speech and language clinic with a 13-year-old participant with severe-moderate autism and minimal speech.

2)      Utilize the mobile application to provide opportunities for repetition of learned skills and the customizable settings to accommodate user needs.  During formative evaluations, we evaluated the usability of the game modes and tested the customization of the user defined settings.

Methods: An innovative mobile application, Literacy LABELS©, was created on the iOS platform that utilizes QR code technology. The application scans the QR codes on the printed labels that are placed on actual physical objects (Fig 1). New labels can be created within the application to customize the intervention for the participant’s needs. The application has games that provide repetition of skills learned during the scanning of the physical labels (Fig 2). A more elaborated single case, A-B design study is underway replicated across three children who have severe-moderate autism to measure the identification of previously unknown words before and after intervention. Maintenance data will be collected on the retention of word identification skills. As an ancillary measure, we will document oral ability to attempt spelling and/or speaking newly learned words. This will produce empirical evidence documenting the benefits of intervention with Literacy LABELS©. 

Results: Preliminary results from the formative evaluation suggest that the application has positive effects on receptive and expressive language development. Initial feedback from parents and clinicians has been favorable praising the ease of customization to learner needs and the engaging and motivating nature of the game-play mode. Further development of this technology will make an early literacy curriculum more accessible to students impacted by ASD and resulting language delays.

Conclusions: N/A