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A Randomized Controlled Trial of Headsprout on the Reading Outcomes in Children With Autism Using Parents as Facilitators


Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are considered an at-risk population for reading delays and challenges. In recent years, there has been emerging support for the computer-assisted instruction (CAI) Headsprout with respect to reading outcomes in children with ASD. CAI, often used within classrooms, is designed using automated and carefully sequenced instruction. A randomized controlled trial was used to explore the implementation of Headsprout by parents, including a treatment package (i.e., behavioral skills training, an online support group, and a consultative model) within the home environment, with their children with ASD. A between-groups design was used to evaluate the effects of Headsprout on the reading outcomes and print motivation of a sample of 26 children with ASD. Thirteen children were in the experimental (Headsprout) group, and thirteen were in the control group receiving treatment as usual. Supplementary online supports were provided to parents based on specific learning problems identified during the intervention. Results demonstrated that participants who received Headsprout showed greater gains in reading rate, word reading, non-word reading, and target sounds and words within Headsprout than the control group. The results of print motivation demonstrated that only Headsprout-specific print material resulted in an increase in assessed preference at posttests.

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Fig. 1

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are stored in the National University of Ireland, Galway, repository. The data are not publicly available due to privacy restrictions (e.g., data contain information that could compromise research participant privacy/consent).


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Author information




All authors contributed to the study’s conception and design. Material preparation, data collection, and analysis were performed by Amanda Nally. The first draft of the manuscript was written by Amanda Nally, and all authors contributed to the development of the final version of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Amanda Nally.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethics approval

Approval was obtained from the ethics committee of the National University of Ireland, Galway. The procedures used in this study adhere to the tenets of the Declaration of Helsinki.

Consent to participate

Informed consent to participate in this study was obtained from parents.

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Additional informed consent was obtained from all individual participants for whom identifying information is included in this article.

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Nally, A., Holloway, J., Lydon, H. et al. A Randomized Controlled Trial of Headsprout on the Reading Outcomes in Children With Autism Using Parents as Facilitators. Behav Analysis Practice (2021).

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  • Headsprout
  • autism
  • reading
  • parent facilitation
  • computer-assisted instruction
  • randomized controlled trial