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TLLP Projects

iSkills for Autism:  The Case Study
As a teacher in the Autism Transitional Classroom, where students with severe autism learn the skills needed to be successful in inclusive classroom settings, I’m always on the lookout for tools that will help students with autism achieve higher academic and social outcomes. As far as learning tools are concerned, iPads offer a lot with their stunning visual and sound capabilities. My thought: Would iPads used as learning tools help increase skill acquisition, levels of engagement and independence in learning in students with autism?

To explore this possibility, I wrote a proposal for the Teacher Learning and Leadership Program for a grant in the fall of 2011. I proposed conducting a small case
study that would measure the effectiveness of iPads (used as learning tools) with students with severe autism who were not accessing the OntarioCurriculum. 

The specific questions we had for the study:

Would students with autism show an increase in the rate of skill acquisition in academic tasks using the iPad?
Could the iPad provide students with autism a means to be more independent in their learning?
Would the iPad increase the students’ ability to attend to academic tasks for longer periods of time?

With the support of the grant, we were able to purchase two iPads and two iPods equipped with durable Otterbox cases and numerous educational apps.

The Participants
All of the students participating in the case study have a diagnosis of Autistic Disorder in the severe range, with two of the students having a secondary diagnosis of Mental Retardation. The target group was comprised of two male students and two female students and ranged in age from 4 years old to 8 years old. During the time of the study, one student was in Junior Kindergarten, one in Senior Kindergarten, one in Grade Two and one in Grade Three. None of the students were receiving additional treatment outside of the school.

What we learned:
Student Engagement
Students are highly motivated by using the iPad. Due to this high level of motivation and interest, student engagement and on-task behaviour during teaching sessions has increased when teaching is conducted with the use of the iPads. Students are staying on task for longer periods of time and excessive behaviours have decreased.

Skill Acquisition
Students are learning more throughout the day; with the fast paced delivery of teaching trials on the iPads, the students are practicing skills several times per day. As well, teaching materials are prepared more quickly and easily, which allows us to start teaching skills more quickly.

Independent Learning
Students are able to engage in active learning without direct teaching from adults. They are able to complete academic tasks independently without adult supervision and stay engaged in these tasks for longer periods of time. 

As part of the requirements for the Teacher Learning and Leadership Program, I developed the following resources to explain our project and assist educators in using iPads and the Hawaii Early Profile.

iSkills for Autism Article

App List

Sharing What We Learned

We first shared information about our project at the TLLP Learning Summit in the fall of 2013.  It was a great experience and we also got to see what other teachers across the province were doing and learn about their projects.  They were so many great projects, ideas and resources.  TVO was also there interviewing people about their projects.  I was one of those people, however, I didn't make the final cut!  Oh well, it was still a great experience!  

Lisa, Tim and I with our research poster.

We had the honour of participating in the Research Poster Reception held at the Geneva Symposium for Autism in October 2014.  The Geneva Symposium is a pre-eminent international conference on autism, bringing together professionals, educators, parents and researchers from around the world, and focusing on the leading research and clinical practices in the field of autism.

During the reception, we had several people stop to discuss our project and our classroom, including teachers, parents, ABA Therapists, and Psychologists.  Most of them requested the resource documents that we created and a few expressed an interest in coming to visit our classroom.  But the highlight of the reception was when Temple Grandin stopped to read our poster.  Temple Grandin is one of the most famous people with Autism and has written many books and lectures on her experiences of having Autism.  We also had the opportunity to give her the article we wrote about our project and hear her speak the next day.  We were shocked when she mentioned our project during her talk, citing the importance of using technology with students with ASD, but not replacing teachers with that technology, which one of the main themes of our project.

Lisa, me and Temple Grandin during the research poster reception.


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