Research indicates that children with autism are very interested in computers as well as personal music, game and communications devices. Shane & Albert29 found that: children on the autism spectrum have extensive interest in computers, television and video; animated characters are more interesting than human figures; and, the majority of children spend more time with electronic media than with all other forms of play combined.
Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder may demonstrate a specific attraction to visually oriented materials including computer programs, object categorizations and other activities that rely on visual-spatial and constructional capacities.30, 31 These individuals also show a high interest in children’s videotapes, often in a perseverative, bordering on obsessive fashion.32 Parents indicate that their children are “mesmerized” by certain tapes and report deferred imitation of activities depicted on the tapes. A video, like a computer screen, offers a captivating learning environment that has enormous appeal to children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Furthermore, these children may be attracted to videos and computers because no social factors are involved.33 Moore & Calvert,34 for example, reported that children with Autism Spectrum Disorder were attentive to a computer-generated lesson 97% of the time (learning 74% of the targeted nouns) but attentive to a teacher-directed lesson only 62% of the time (learning 41% of the targeted nouns). Parental reports are supported by studies that have effectively taught problem-solving skills,35 social scripts, and communication skills through the use of computers and/or videotapes.36 Videotapes have also been used to teach conversational skills, and to present scenarios of individuals performing functional skills across various settings in the community. Video has also been described as a cost-efficient and convenient strategy to train new skills and promote generalization to unfamiliar settings.37, 38 Research indicates that students with Autism Spectrum Disorder39 and developmentally delayed students could accurately imitate peer models. Additionally, research demonstrates that developmentally delayed students could accurately imitate videotape models,40 and one study found video presentations to be more effective than live models.41 A review of that research suggests that modeling correct behavior from a video presentation produces success. Thus, appropriately designed computer and/or video programs may represent an effective therapeutic technique for children with autism, and one used instructionally at Monarch School.