Comparing Parent to Student Report Regarding Technology Use By Adolescents with Autism in School and Home Settings

Saturday, May 13, 2017: 12:00 PM-1:40 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
M. Ledoux1, T. Regan2 and S. Hedges3, (1)San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, (2)UNC-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, (3)UNC at Greensboro, Chapel Hill, NC
Background: It has been observed that many children with autism have an affinity to screen based technology and research has examined their use of technology for entertainment, in particular to play video games and watch animated movies. It is not well understood how technology is used to support independence and learning and social interactions. Hedges et al., (under review), found in a recent survey of high school students with autism (n=472) that a majority of respondents reported using technology to enhance their learning, increase their social interactions, and to help reduce stress. This current study sought to confirm those findings by asking similar questions to the parents of the student study participants.

Objectives: To compare parent perspectives to their children’s on the use of technology, in particular, what they perceive are its benefits and challenges.

Methods: Paper surveys were completed by 321 parents of high school students with autism receiving special education services across 3 states in the US (California, North Carolina, Wisconsin). The questionnaires covered topics related to their children’s technology use at home and at school. Technology was described as computers, cell phones, tablets, etc.

Results: Mirroring their children’s report, the majority of parents (91%) said their child is “good” at using technology and 66% said they “definitely” consider it an area of strength. Like their children, most respondents see their teen having a career or job using technology in the future. Similarly, 97% report their child uses technology to communicate or socialize including texting, email, and social media. Almost half of respondents felt that online learning would be a good way for their child to learn. Parents (83%) reported a common use of technology by their children included listening to music to help reduce stress or relieve anxiety.

 In contrast to the benefits of technology use by teens with autism, 71% of parents (compared to 58% of students) reported that technology can distract their teen from learning and 84% said that their teen’s technology use can be excessive.

Conclusions: Parent reports of benefits of technology use along with reports of excessive use and distraction from learning were similar to what their children reported. Educators should consider the benefits of providing access to technology tools for their students with autism to help increase independence, communication, and social interactions. They may also need to consider ways to mitigate the distracting aspects of technology. Parents may want to consider setting limits on technology use to help their children learn to control excessive use.