Computer Interventions for ASD

  • Veronica SmithEmail author
  • Andrew Sung


This chapter reviews the use of computer-based or computer-assisted instruction (CAI) for individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Information and communication technologies have changed the way that we conceptualize how learning takes place and how people acquire knowledge. Several interventions that address language, social, and academic skills that incorporate the use of technologies have been developed for individuals with ASD. The use of CAI in ASD is still relatively new, and most explorations in this area represent more “proof of concept” explorations than evidence of effectiveness. This review will summarize the technology, the context in which it was used, and the effects for individuals with ASD. Suggestions regarding how research may support the development and evaluation of similar technologies and programs will be provided in conclusion.


Autism Spectrum Disorder Autism Spectrum Disorder Emotion Recognition Asperger Syndrome Autism Spectrum Disorder Group 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Anohina A. Analysis of the terminology used in the field of virtual learning. Educ Technol Soc. 2005;8:91–102.Google Scholar
  2. Baron-Cohen S, Golan O, Wheelwright S, Hill JJ. Mind reading: the interactive guide to emotions. London: Jessica Kingsley; 2004.Google Scholar
  3. Battocchi A, Ben-Sasson A, Esposito G, Gal E, Pianesi F, Tomasini D, Venuti P, Weiss PL, Zancanaro M. Collaborative puzzle game: a tabletop interface for fostering collaborative skills in children with autism spectrum disorders. J Assist Technol. 2010;4:4–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bolte S, Feineis-Matthews S, Leber S, Dierks T, Hubl D, Poustka F. The development and evaluation of a computer-based program to test and to teach the recognition of facial affect. Int J Circumpolar Health. 2002;61(Suppl 2):61–8.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Bosseler A, Massaro DW. Development and evaluation of a computer-animated tutor for vocabulary and language learning in children with autism. J Autism Dev Disord. 2003;33:653–72.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Celani G, Battacchi MW, Arcidiancono L. The understanding of the emotional meaning of facial expressions in people with autism. J Autism Dev Disord. 1999;29:57–66.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Farr W, Yuill N, Raffle H. Social benefits of a tangible user interface for children with autistic spectrum conditions. Autism. 2010;14:237–52.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Ferrari M, Harris SL. The limits and motivating potential of sensory stimuli as reinforcers for autistic children. J Appl Behav Anal. 1981;14:339–43.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Golan O, Baron-Cohen S. Systemizing empathy: teaching adults with Asperger syndrome or high-functioning autism to recognize complex emotions using interactive multimedia. Dev Psychopathol. 2006;18:591–617.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Golan O, Baron-Cohen S, Golan Y. The ‘reading the mind in films’ task [child version]: complex emotion and mental state recognition in children with and without autism spectrum conditions. J Autism Dev Disord. 2008;38:1534–41.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Golan O, Ashwin E, Granader Y, McClintock S, Day K, Leggett V, et al. Enhancing emotion recognition in children with autism spectrum conditions: an intervention using animated vehicles with real emotional faces. J Autism Dev Disord. 2010;40:269–79.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gross TF. The perception of four basic emotions in human and nonhuman faces by children with autism and other developmental disabilities. J Abnorm Child Psychol. 2004;32:469–80.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gutierrez-Griep R. Student preference of sensory reinforcers. Educ Train Mental Retard. 1984;19:108–13.Google Scholar
  14. Happé FGE. An advanced test of theory of mind-understanding of story characters thoughts and feelings by able autistic, mentally-handicapped, and normal-children and adults. J Autism Dev Disord. 1994;24:129–54.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Heimann M, Nelson K, Tjus T, Gillberg C. Increasing reading and communication skills in children with autism through an interactive multimedia computer program. J Autism Dev Disord. 1995;25:459–80.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hetzroni OE, Shalem U. From logos to orthographic symbols: a multilevel fading computer program for teaching nonverbal children with autism. Focus Autism Other Dev Disord. 2005;20:201–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hetzroni OE, Tannous J. Effects of a computer-based intervention program on the communicative functions of children with autism. J Autism Dev Disord. 2004;34:95–113.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hobson R. The autistic child’s appraisal of expressions of emotion. J Child Psychol Psychiatr. 1986;27:321–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Howlin P, Baron-Cohen S, Hadwin J. Teaching children with autism to mind-read: a practical guide. Chichester: Wiley; 1999.Google Scholar
  20. Janzen J. Understanding the nature of autism: a practical guide. San Antonio: Therapy Skill Builders; 1996.Google Scholar
  21. Kagohara DM, Sigafoos J, Achmadi D, O‘Reilly M, Lancioni G. Teaching children with autism spectrum disorders to check the spelling of words. Res Autism Spectr Disord. 2012;6:304–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. LaCava PG, Golan O, Baron-Cohen S, Myles BS. Using assistive technology to teach emotion recognition to students with Asperger syndrome: a pilot study. Remed Spec Educ. 2007;28:174–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Malone T. Toward a theory of intrinsically motivating instruction. Cognit Sci. 1981;4:333–69.Google Scholar
  24. Massaro DW, Bosseler A. Read my lips: the importance of the face in a computer-animated tutor for vocabulary learning by children with autism. Autism. 2006;10:495–510.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mitchell P, Parsons S, Leonard A. Using virtual environments for teaching social understanding to six adolescents with autistic spectrum disorders. J Autism Dev Disord. 2007;37:589–600.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Moore M, Calvert S. Brief report: vocabulary acquisition for children with autism: teacher or computer instruction. J Autism Dev Disord. 2000;30:359–62.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Moore D, McGrath P, Thorpe J. Computer-aided learning for people with autism: a framework for research and development. Innov Educ Train Int. 2000;37:218–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Olsen CY, Olsen DE, Boteler L, Bell CA. Virtual conversation partner for adults with autism. Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2011;14:21–7.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Parsons S, Mitchell P, Leonard A. The use and understanding of virtual environments by adolescents with autistic spectrum disorders. J Autism Dev Disord. 2004;34:449–66.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Parsons S, Leonard A, Mitchell P. Virtual environments for social skills training: comments from two adolescents with autistic spectrum disorder. Comput Educ. 2006;47:186–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Schlosser RW, Blischak DM. Is there a role for speech output in interventions for persons with autism? A review. Focus Autism Other Dev Disabil. 2001;16:170–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Schultz RT. Developmental deficits in social perception in autism: the role of the amygdala and fusiform face area. Int J Dev Neurosci. 2005;23:125–41.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Silver M, Oakes P. Evaluation of a new computer intervention to teach people with autism or Asperger syndrome to recognize and predict emotions in others. Autism. 2001;5:299–316.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Smith V, Mirenda P, Zaidman-Zait A. Predictors of expressive vocabulary growth in children with autism. J Speech Lang Hear Res. 2007;50:149–60.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Spence S. Social skills training with children and adolescents: a counsellor’s manual. Windsor: NFER-Nelson; 1980.Google Scholar
  36. Tanaka JW, Wolf JM, Klaiman C, Koenig K, Cockburn JL, Herlihy L, Brown C, Stahl S, Kaiser MD, Schultz RT. Using computerized games to teach face recognition skills to children with autism spectrum disorder: The Let’s Face It! program. J Child Psychol Psychiatr. 2010;51:944–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Travers JC, Higgins K, Pierce T, Boone R, Miller S, Tandy R. Emergent literacy skills of preschool students with autism: a comparison of teacher-led and computer-assisted instruction. Educ Train Dev Disabil. 2011;46:326–38.Google Scholar
  38. Wallace S, Parsons S, Westbury A, White K, Bailey A. Sense of presence and atypical social judgments in immersive virtual environments: responses of adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Autism. 2010;14:199–213.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Whalen C, Liden L, Ingersoll B, Dallaire E, Liden S. Behavioral improvements associated with computer-assisted instruction for children with developmental disabilities. Speech Lang Pathol Appl Behav Anal. 2006;1:11–26.Google Scholar
  40. Whalen C, Moss D, Ilan A, Vaupel M, Fielding P, MacDonald K, Cernich S, Symon J. Efficacy of teachtown: basics computer-assisted intervention for the intensive comprehensive autism program in Los Angeles unified school district. Autism. 2010;14:179–97.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Whitcomb SA, Bass JD, Luiselli JK. Effects of a computer-based early reading program (Headsprout) on word list and text reading skills in a student with autism. J Dev Phys Disabil. 2011;23:491–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Williams C, Wright B, Callaghan G, Coughlan B. Do children with autism learn to read more readily by computer assisted instruction or traditional book methods? A pilot study. Autism. 2002;6:71–91.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Yaw JS, Skinner CH, Parkhurst J, Taylor CM, Booher J, Chambers K. Extending research on a computer-based sight-word reading intervention to a student with autism. J Behav Educ. 2011;20:44–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Young RL, Posselt M. Using the transporters DVD as a learning tool for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). J Autism Dev Disord. 2012;42:984–91.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Educational PsychologyUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Department of Educational PsychologyUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada

Personalised recommendations