Do children with autism learn to read more readily by computer assisted instruction or traditional book methods? A pilot study.
The study evaluates the progress of eight children aged 3-5 years with autism attending a specialist teaching unit in their development of reading skills in two conditions: computer instructed learning and book based learning. The authors developed a direct observation schedule to monitor autistic behaviours using computerized techniques. The children were matched by age, severity of autistic symptomatology and number of spoken words. They were initially randomly allocated to the computer or book condition and crossed over at 10 weeks. All of the children spent more time on task in the computer condition than in the book condition. By the end of the study after computer assisted learning, five of the eight children could reliably identify at least three words. It was found that children with autism spent more time on reading material when they accessed it through a computer and were less resistant to its use.