Selecting Computer-Mediated Interventions to Support the Social and Emotional Development of Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Selecting Computer-Mediated Interventions to Support the Social and Emotional Development of Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Kristen Gillespie-Lynch (City University of New York, USA), Patricia J. Brooks (City University of New York, USA), Christina Shane-Simpson (City University of New York, USA), Naomi Love Gaggi (City University of New York, USA), Deborah Sturm (City University of New York, USA) and Bertram O. Ploog (City University of New York, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8395-2.ch007
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Abstract

This chapter is designed to provide parents, professionals, and individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) with tools to help them evaluate the effectiveness of computer-mediated interventions to support the social and emotional development of individuals with ASD. Starting with guidelines for selecting computer-mediated interventions, we highlight the importance of identifying target skills for intervention that match an individual's needs and interests. We describe how readers can assess the degree to which an intervention is evidence-based, and include an overview of different types of experiments and statistical methods. We examine a variety of computer-mediated interventions and the evidence base for each: computer-delivered instruction (including games), iPad-type apps, virtual environments, and robots. We describe websites that provide additional resources for finding educational games and apps. We conclude by emphasizing the uniqueness of each individual with ASD and the importance of selecting interventions that are well-matched to the specific needs of each individual.
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Core Difficulties Associated With Asd

ASD is defined by social difficulties and “restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities” (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Individuals with ASD often experience difficulties communicating with others and developing relationships. They may attend to people in different ways than typically developing individuals do (Ploog, 2010); for example, they may look less at eyes and faces while interacting (Speer, Cook, McMahon, & Clark, 2007). People with ASD may struggle with recognizing faces, understanding their own and others’ more complex emotions (such as pride or jealousy), and regulating their own emotions (Chamak, Bonniau, Jaunay, & Cohen, 2008). Some difficulties in responding to others’ faces and emotions may arise from unusual perceptual experiences associated with ASD, such as enhanced or atypical attention to details (Behrmann et al., 2006; Ploog, 2010). People with ASD are often interested in connecting with others but do not always know how to do so, which can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression (Jones et al., 2003).

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