CEC Theses and Dissertations


Computer Assisted Instruction for Teaching Vocabulary to a Child with Autism

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Computing Technology in Education (DCTE)


Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences


Getrude W. Abramson

Committee Member

Maxine S. Cohen

Committee Member

Timothy Ellis


Children with autism have difficulty communicating. Their limited vocabulary reduces their comprehension of language and their use of speech to express thoughts and needs. Increasing vocabulary is important to improve communication skills. These children do not learn language like typical children. They have limited joint attention skills and impaired basic learning skills that impede their communication. Specialized instruction is necessary to help them learn language. They need to be explicitly taught words, phrases, and sentences.

Computer assisted instruction (CAI) offers interactive, customizable, and measurable training for learning language. Children with autism can use CAI to learn at borne, in a clinic, and in a classroom. It is readily available and affordable and computers are prevalent. CAL offers repetition, predictability, and interesting instruction that can support individual and classroom instructional goals. The complications, considerations, and possibilities of using CAI in a classroom are explored in this single subject investigation. The use of CAI by a child with autism to learn words was investigated. The First Words II software by Laureate Learning Systems was used in a preschool classroom. The case provides a comprehensive description of the participant including his pre-treatment skills, treatment behaviors, and test results. Four research questions were answered. How does CAI that presents pictures of objects impact the acquisition, generalization, and retention of new words by a child with autism? How does text captioning of pictures presented in CAI affect a child with autism? What behaviors help a child with autism learn new words using CAI? How can a child with autism benefit from using CAI in a classroom? Results gathered from the CAT treatment indicate that the participant made progress toward learning new object labels. Additional skills beyond the content delivered by the CAI were also demonstrated by the participant. These skills included increased motivation, strengthened positive relationship with a teacher, improved joint attention, sustained concentration with an instructional task, and verbal and motor imitation. The participant enjoyed using the CAI l in the classroom.

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