Skip to main content

An iPad-Based Intervention for Teaching Picture and Word Matching to a Student with ASD and Severe Communication Impairment


iPads® have been successfully used as speech-generating devices (SGD) for children with ASD and limited speech, but little research has investigated the use of iPads to enhance academic skills, such as picture/word matching. In the present study, a student with ASD received intervention to teach picture and word matching using an iPad-based SGD as the response mode. A multiple baseline across matching tasks design was used to evaluate the effects of a graduated guidance prompting procedure and differential reinforcement on correct matching across four matching tasks (i.e., picture to picture, word to picture, picture to word, and word to word). With intervention, the student showed increased correct matching across all four combinations, suggesting that picture and word matching with an iPad-based SGD can be successfully taught using graduated guidance and differential reinforcement. This approach might have relevance for teaching a range of academic/literacy skills to students with ASD who present with limited or no speech.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1


  • Alexander, J. L., Ayres, K. M., Smith, K. A., Shepley, S. B., & Mataras, T. K. (2013). Using video modeling on an iPad to teach generalized matching on a sorting mail task to adolescents with autism. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 7, 1346–1357. doi:10.1016/j.rasd.2013.07.021.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington: Author.

  • Duker, P., Didden, R., & Sigafoos, J. (2004). One-to-one training: Instructional procedures for learners with developmental disabilities. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.

  • Flores, M., Musgrove, K., Renner, S., Hinton, V., Strozier, S., Franklin, S., & Hil, D. (2012). A comparison of communication using the Apple iPad and a picture-based system. International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 28, 74–84. doi:10.3109/07434618.2011.644579.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ganz, J, Hong, E. R., Goodwyn, F., Kite, E., & Gilliland, W. (2013). Impact of PECS tablet computer app on receptive indentification of pictures given a verbal stimulus. Developmental Neurorehabilitation. doi:10.3109/17518423.2013.821539.

  • Hart, J. E., & Whalon, K. J. (2012). Using video self-modeling via iPads to increase academic responding of an adolescent with autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 47, 438–446.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jowett, E. L., Moore, D. W., & Anderson, A. (2012). Using an iPad-based video modelling package to teach numeracy skills to a child with an autism spectrum disorder. Developmental Neurorehabilitation, 15, 304–312. doi:10.3109/17518423.2012.682168.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Kagohara, D., Sigafoos, J., Achmadi, D., O'Reilly, M., & Lancioni, G. (2012a). Teaching children with autism spectrum disorders to check the spelling of words. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 6, 304–310. doi:10.1016/j.rasd.2011.05.012.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kagohara, D., van der Meer, L., Achmadi, D., Green, V., O'Reilly, M., Lancioni, G., & Sigafoos, J. (2012b). Teaching picture naming to two adolescents with autism spectrum disorders using systematic instruction and speech-generating devices. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 6, 1224–1233. doi:10.1016/j.rasd.2012.04.001.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kagohara, D., Van der Meer, L., Ramdoss, S., O’Reilly, M. F., Lancioni, G. E., Davis, T. N., & Sigafoos, J. (2013). Using iPods and iPads in teaching programs for individuals with developmental disabilities: A systematic review. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 34, 147–156. doi:10.1016/j.ridd.2012.07.027.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Kennedy, C. (2005). Single-case designs for educational research. Boston: Pearson Education Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  • Knight, V., McKissick, B. R., & Saunders, A. (2013). A review of technology-based interventions to teach academic skills to students with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 43, 2628–2648. doi:10.1007/s10803-013-1814-y.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Lang, R., Regester, A., Rispoli, M., Pimentel, S., & Camargo, S. H. (2010). Rehabilitation issues for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Developmental Neurorehabilitation, 13, 153–155.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Lee, A., Lang, R., Davenport, K., Moore, M., Rispoli, M., van der Meer, L., Chung, C. (2013). Comparison of therapist implemented and iPad-assisted interventions for children with autism. Developmental Neurorehabilitation. doi:10.3109/17518423.2013.830231.

  • Litchfield, J., & Young, C. (2004). The Usborne first picture word book. London: Usborne Publishing Ltd.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lovaas, O. (2003). Teaching individuals with developmental delays: Basic intervention techniques. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.

  • McNaughton, D., & Light, J. (2013). The iPad and mobile technology revolution: Benefits and challenges for individuals who require augmentative and alternative communication. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 29, 107–116. doi:10.3109/07434618.2013.784930.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Neely, L., Rispoli, M., Camargo, S., Davis, H., & Boles, M. (2013). The effect of instructional use of an iPad on challenging behavior and academic engagement for two students with autism. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 7, 509–516. doi:10.1016/j.rasd.2012.12.004.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • O'Malley, P., Lewis, M. E. B., Donehower, C., & Stone, D. (2014). Effectiveness of using iPads to increase academic task completion by students with autism. Universal Journal of Educational Research, 2, 90–97.

  • Pennington, R. C. (2010). Computer-assisted instruction for teaching academic skills to students with autism spectrum disorders: A review of literature. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 25, 239–248. doi:10.1177/1088357610378291.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pituch, K. A., Green, V. A., Didden, R., Lang, R., O’Reilly, M. F., Lancioni, G. E., & Sigafoos, J. (2010). Parent reported treatment priorities for children with autism spectrum disorders. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 5, 135–143.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Reichle, J., York, J., & Sigafoos, J. (1991). Implementing augmentative and alternative communication: Strategies for learners with severe disabilities. Baltimore: Paul H Brookes Publishing Co.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rossetti, L. (2006). Rossetti Infant-Toddler Language Scale, Survey Forms Manual. Illinois: LinguiSystems.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sennott, S., & Bowker, A. (2009). Autism, AAC, and Proloquo2Go. Perspectives on Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 18, 137–145.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sigafoos, J., Woodyatt, G., Keen, D., Tait, K., Tucker, M., Roberts-Pennell, D., & Pittendreigh, N. (2000). Identifying potential communicative acts in children with developmental and physical disabilities. Communication Disorders Quarterly, 21, 77–86.

  • Sparrow, S., Cicchetti, D., & Balla, D. (2005). Vineland-II Adaptive Behavior Scales (2nd ed.). Minneapolis: Pearson.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stephenson, J., & Limbrick, L. (2013). A review of the use of touch-screen mobile devices by people with developmental disabilities. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. doi:10.1007/s10803-013-1878-8.

  • Stoner, J., Beck, A., Dennis, M., & Parette, H. (2011). The use of instructional technology in direct vocabulary instruction. Journal of Special Education Technology, 26, 35–46.

    Google Scholar 

  • van der Meer, L., Sigafoos, J., Sutherland, D., McLay, L., Lang, R., Lancioni, G. E., Marschik, P.B. (2013). Preference-enhanced communication intervention and development of social communicative functions in a child with autism spectrum disorder. Clinical Case Studies, 13, 282–295. doi:10.1177/1534650113508221.

  • Vandermeer, J., Beamish, W., Milford, T., & Lang, W. (2013). iPad-presented social stories for young children with autism. Developmental Neurorehabilitation. doi:10.3109/17518423.2013.809811.

Download references


This research was supported by a grant from the New Zealand Government through the Marsden Fund Council, administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand; and by Victoria University of Wellington, The University of Canterbury, and The New Zealand Institute of Language, Brain & Behaviour.

Declaration of Interests

The authors report no conflicts of interest. The authors alone are responsible for the content and writing of this paper.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Larah van der Meer.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

van der Meer, L., Achmadi, D., Cooijmans, M. et al. An iPad-Based Intervention for Teaching Picture and Word Matching to a Student with ASD and Severe Communication Impairment. J Dev Phys Disabil 27, 67–78 (2015).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Academic skills
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Behavioral intervention
  • iPad
  • Picture/word matching
  • Severe communication impairment
  • Speech-generating device