Brief Report: Just-in-Time Visual Supports to Children with Autism via the Apple Watch:® A Pilot Feasibility Study


Using augmented input might be an effective means for supplementing spoken language for children with autism who have difficulties following spoken directives. This study aimed to (a) explore whether JIT-delivered scene cues (photos, video clips) via the Apple Watch® enable children with autism to carry out directives they were unable to implement with speech alone, and (b) test the feasibility of the Apple Watch® (with a focus on display size). Results indicated that the hierarchical JIT supports enabled five children with autism to carry out the majority of directives. Hence, the relatively small display size of the Apple Watch does not seem to hinder children with autism to glean critical information from visual supports.

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We would like to thank the participants of this study as well as their parents for taking the time to be part of this research project. A version of this paper was presented at the 2016 Biennial Conference of the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication in Toronto, Canada.

Author Contributions

AO conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination, provided technical solutions in the use of the Apple Watch, collected data, trained independent observers, entered the data, analyzed the data, interpreted the data, helped draft the manuscript, and helped revise the manuscript. RS conceived of the study, conducted the literature review, took a leadership role relative to research design and measurement, analyzed and interpreted the data, drafted the manuscript, and spearheaded the revision of the manuscript. HS conceived of the study, provided input into technical aspects of data collection, helped situate the study within the JIT taxonomy, interpreted the data, helped draft the manuscript, and assisted in revising the manuscript. JA conceived of the study, provided technical solutions for Apple Watch, interpreted the data, helped draft the manuscript. AA and SF conceived of the study, assisted in interpreting the data, and helped draft the manuscript. CY conceived of the study, collected data, assisted in interpreting the data, and helped draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Ralf W. Schlosser.

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The authors report no conflicts of interests.

Human and Animal Rights

This research was approved by the appropriate Institutional Review board (IRB).

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from the legal guardians/parents of each participating child.

Additional information

The Apple Watch is a registered trademark of Apple Inc., Cupertino, CA 95014, USA.

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O’Brien, A., Schlosser, R.W., Shane, H.C. et al. Brief Report: Just-in-Time Visual Supports to Children with Autism via the Apple Watch:® A Pilot Feasibility Study. J Autism Dev Disord 46, 3818–3823 (2016).

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  • Autism
  • Instruction following
  • Just-in-time
  • Technology
  • Visual supports