Day-to-Day Technology Use and Training Needs of Teens with ASD and Typically-Developing Peers
The use of technology is ubiquitous in teens with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their typically-developing (TD) peers. Computer competency is needed for many careers. Research has not focused on the how people with ASD use technology in their day-to-day lives and whether that technology is accessible to them to meet their occupational, economic, entertainment, and information needs as they transition into adulthood, independent living, and the world of work.
To understand which technologies are used by teens with ASD and TD peers and parent-perceived needs for technology training.
An anonymous 80-question survey developed in SurveyMonkey was administered to parents/ guardians of children ages 13-17 living in the US with and without ASD. Participants were recruited using the Interactive Autism Network (IAN) subject recruitment service and social media. The survey ran 09/09/2015-10/24/2015.
348 survey instances were completed: ASD= 264 (76%); TD=84(24%). Male-to-female gender ratios for TD (1:1) and ASD (5.87:1) were in the expected range.
Three groups were used for analysis: ASD with normal-or-above intellectual ability (ASD-Normal); ASD with lower-than-normal intellectual ability (ASD-Low); and TD. No TD teens were attributed with lower-than-normal intellectual ability.
Logistic regression was used to compare use of ASD-related apps and dedicated assistive devices (ASD groups only) and general use of devices across groups, controlling for the child’s age, gender, race (white/non-white), and ethnicity (Hispanic/Non-Hispanic).
Use of ASD-related apps and dedicated assistive devices – ASD-only: intellectual ability was the only factor that differentiated groups, with use among ASD-Low>ASD-Normal (Apps: χ2 =28.14; p<.001; d.f.=5. Dedicated Devices: χ2=13.03;p=.023;d.f.=5).
Use of laptops, desktops, and notebook computers: intellectual ability was the only factor that differentiated groups, with ASD-Low using them less than the other groups (χ2=22.52;p=.001;d.f.=6).
Use of tablets: Hispanic/Latino teens used tablets more than Not-Hispanic/Non-Latino teens (χ2=15.61;p=.016;d.f.=6).
Gaming devices: Overall, ASD-Normal were using gaming devices more than other groups (χ2=37.11;p<.001;d.f.=6). ASD girls (50.0%) were more likely to use gaming devices than non-ASD girls (23.8%) (p=.02 FET) and TD boys (85.7%) were more likely to use gaming devices than ASD boys (65.2%) (p=.01; FET).
Smartphones: 58.0% of ASD-Low, 75.8% of ASD-Normal, and 86.9% of TD teens were using Smartphones (χ2=30.37;p<.001;d.f.=6).
Technology careers and training: ASD-Normal teens were more likely to be considering a career that highly-involved computers (53.9%) than TD (20.2%) or ASD-Low (23.3%) teens (χ2=41.02;p<.001;d.f.=6). ASD-Normal teens also more likely to be learning computer repair (17.1%) than TD (7.1%) or ASD-Low (5.2%) teens; however, only boys were doing so (χ2=19.31;p=.004;d.f.=6). ASD-Normal teens also more likely to be learning computer programming (38.0%) than TD (16.7%) or ASD-Low (12.7%) teens; however, more ASD-Normal boys (40.0%) were doing so than girls (22.2%) (χ2=34.16;p<.001;d.f.=6). 86.5% of parents of ASD-Low, 68.8% of parents of ASD-Normal, and 41.7% of parents of TD teens wanted more computer training for their child (χ2=48.02;p<.001;d.f.=6).
Teens with autism are active technology users and many are considering careers in technology; however, technology training is falling short.