University of Tasmania
Somerton_whole_thesis.pdf (5.37 MB)

Reading between the lines : an intervention concerning reading comprehension, students with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder, and the design of educational software for mobile technologies

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posted on 2023-05-27, 15:42 authored by Michelle SomertonMichelle Somerton
The present study explored language, communication, and reading comprehension deficits in students with High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder (HFASD) and research in educational software applications (Apps) and mobile technologies. Many students with HFASD demonstrate difficulties in the acquisition of critical literacy skills such as reading comprehension, which research associates with the core deficits of the disorder. These core deficits include social communication, social interaction, and restricted or repetitive behaviours and interests. One of the ways these core deficits impact on students with HFASD is in face-to-face interactions and communicating with others. Mobile technologies and educational App software may be one way to support the development of reading comprehension of students with HFASD without the communication difficulties often experienced with face-to-face teaching and learning. Research concerning students with HFASD and the application of mobile technologies is emergent and as such limited. More notable, is a lack of research that could determine if educational software can develop the skills that underpin reading comprehension. As a result, the present study focussed on the design and development of an App to evaluate its effectiveness with this cohort of students. The three main research questions examined in this thesis are: (1) Can App software be designed to support measurable gains in reading comprehension for students with HFASD? (2) What are the key criteria and design features to consider when creating educational software for mobile technologies? (3) Considering the heterogeneous nature of students with HFASD, what attributes of characteristics influence students' results after using the software? The participants involved in this research were aged from seven to twelve years with an in independent diagnosis of HFASD. A pilot study was initially conducted with two participants with HFASD to define and develop the treatment protocols for the main study. As a result, the main study utilised a single subject quasi-experimental case design involving nine participants, five boys and four girls. These students were assessed on measures including their vocabulary, comprehension, phonological awareness, and reading attitudes and behaviours. The core findings of the present study describe improvements in reading comprehension for participants with specific deficits in vocabulary and comprehension. These findings are discussed in terms of the importance of understanding the heterogeneity of students with autism spectrum disorder and their learning needs. The findings review the theories that can be applied to understanding how the core deficits of this disorder contribute to problems in the acquisition of critical literacy skills, and how new educational technologies can be specifically developed and designed for this cohort of students to improve their learning. However, these findings have broader implications for educators and software developers in acknowledging the key pedagogical principles that underpin the success of educational technologies for all students in the classroom.


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