Friday, February 14, 2014

UNC Chapel Hill Research Review Supports the Use of Technology for Those with Autism Spectrum Disorde

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The National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has released its update on evidence based-practices (EBP’s) for children and young adults with autism under the age of 22.  Over 29,000 articles about Autism Spectrum Disorder were screened by scientists at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute to identify effective practices and interventions.  While this is extremely important work for the larger scientific and medical community, findings in the report also directly support our work in PACER Center’s Simon Technology Center (STC). 

Using an extremely stringent screening process, 29,105 research articles were whittled down to 456 that were included in the evidence base.  This review allowed for the inclusion of single case design studies, as well as randomized group design, provided they met the criteria for qualification as an evidence-based practice.  Among the 456 studies that covered a very broad range of interventions, 20 pertained to interventions involving the use of technology. 

Many have been skeptical about the use of technology as an intervention due to lack of personal or scientific knowledge about its effectiveness.  An exciting aspect of this review is that one of the outcomes listed is that “TAII (Technology-aided instruction and intervention) can be used effectively to address social, communication, behavior, joint attention, cognitive, school-readiness, academic, motor, adaptive, and vocational skills” for young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  The review also stated that “TAII incorporates a broad range of devices, such as speech-generating devices, smart phones, tablets, computed-assisted instructional programs, and virtual networks. The common features of these interventions are the technology itself (as noted) and instructional procedures for learning to use the technology or supporting its use in appropriate contexts (Odom, 2013)”.  Most of the devices listed are available to learn about and try in the STC’s technology lending library.  

We’ve seen the benefits of assistive technology for individuals with ASD as well as many other disabilities, and have heard first-hand from families about the difference it has made in their lives.  We are extremely excited that our personal experience with families and assistive technology is supported by scientific research screened by a reputable organization.  While this research review speaks directly to Autism Spectrum Disorder, we are hopeful that similar conclusions will be made for an even broader range of disabilities.    

As Assistive Technology Specialists, we provide a free consultation service to families in Minnesota to help families navigate technology to help their child(ren).  While it is not a formal evaluation, we provide a starting point for families to learn about pieces of technology that may benefit them at home, in school, on the job or out in the community.  As members of our lending library, families and professionals have the opportunity to check things out and try them in a variety of environments before they decide to purchase them. 

For more information on this research review, you can view the full report hereFor the studies specific to technology, please see the accompanying fact sheet.


Odom, S.L. (2013). Technology-aided instruction and intervention (TAII) fact sheet.  Chapel Hill: The
                University of North Carolina, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, The National
                Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Wong, C., Odom, S.L., Hume, K., Cox, A.W., Fettig, A., Kucharczyk, S.,…Schultz, T.R. (2013).                             Evidence-based practices for children, youth, and young adults with Autism Spectrum 
                Disorder. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina, Frank Porter Graham Child 
                Development Institute, Autism Evidence-Based Practice Review Group. Chapel
                Hill: The University of North Carolina, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, Autism
                Evidence-Based Practice Review Group