CEC Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Information Systems (DCIS)

Department

Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences

Advisor

Gertrude Abramson

Committee Member

Jack O'Mara

Committee Member

Cordelia Twomey

Abstract

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are conditions where a person may exhibit developmental disabilities, significant social, communication and behavioral challenges, and process information differently than people without ASD. The Federal Government guidelines mandate inclusion of all students into the public school facilities. All school age children in the United States are afforded the same opportunities for public education.

The goal of this investigation was to evaluate the effectiveness of Computer-Aided Instruction (CAI) as a treatment for teaching mathematics to a group of autistic pupils in an elementary school environment. The public later elementary school is located in Kalamazoo, Michigan and had a student enrollment of 488 in grades 3-5 for the 2011-2012 school year (MDE; http://michigan.gov/mde, February 12, 2014). Questionnaires were used to gather feedback from teachers and itinerant staff, including social workers, psychologists and speech and language therapists. Data were gathered using tests developed by teachers and designed to meet state guidelines. Data analysis involved comparing the test scores of ASD pupils taught by CAI to those for pupils taught using conventional teacher-led instruction.

The computer-based treatment (TeachTown® software) was compared to the traditional treatment of teacher-led instruction using data from pre- and post-testing as well as observation, and was shown to improve both pupil attentiveness (time on task) as well as math test scores. As schools, educators, staff and parents continue to wrestle with the adverse effects of increased numbers of diagnosed ASD pupils and decreased dollars dedicated to their human teachers, an option seems to lie in the use of CAI software and the focusing of resources in matching pupils to computers. It is recommended that school administration evaluate the cost of CAI and training as an option to monies appropriated to adding more teachers and teacher human aides. It is also recommended that more research be conducted to evaluate the use of CAI software with ASD pupils of larger population size and different socio-economic environments.