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The Use of Technology to Teach Reading Skills to Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Systematic Quality Review, Meta-Analysis, and Single-Case Research Evaluation

posted on 17.02.2020 by So-yeon Kim
Although technology has been commonly used to teach reading skills to students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the overall quality and evidence base of research supporting this practice has not yet been fully investigated. The purpose of this dissertation was to examine the effects of technology-based reading interventions for students with ASD through a systematic quality review, meta-analysis, and single-case experimental study.

In Study 1, articles that incorporated technology into reading interventions for students with ASD were systematically aggregated (N = 31), and the methodological rigor of both group design (n = 4) and single-case design studies (n = 27) were evaluated based on the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) quality indicators. A total of 16 studies (52%) met the WWC standards without or with reservations. Study characteristics related to participant, setting, interventionist, technology usage, intervention components, and targeted outcomes were coded and synthesized for these 16 studies with high-quality research evidence. Results indicated that two types of technology (i.e., computer, tablet) were used for developing materials, supporting interventionist-directed reading instruction, and delivering reading instruction without interventionist-directed reading instruction.

The purpose of Study 2 was to quantify the magnitude of effect of technology-based reading interventions for students with ASD and determine if participant and intervention characteristics moderate intervention effects. A total of 13 single-case studies that met the WWC quality indicators were included in the meta-analysis, and these studies yielded 50 separate effect sizes with 13 participants. The Tau-U effect size without baseline control was calculated to quantify the effects of technology-based reading interventions, and statistically significant tests were conducted to analyze categorical variables. Results of this meta-analysis found a medium overall effect of .89 (95% CI [.83, .96]) for technology-based reading interventions and variables associated with the use of time delay moderated reading outcomes.

In Study 3, the effects of adapted science eBooks within shared reading on reading comprehension and task engagement of high school students with ASD were investigated using a single-case multiple-probe design. For the reading materials, one grade-level science textbook was selected based on its alignment with secondary science standards and participants' interests and daily living activities. The selected textbook was converted to an eBook format that included various auditory and visual features (e.g., text-to-speech, highlighted keywords, summarized sentences, pictures) and was presented on an iPad screen. The shared reading intervention included before, during, and after reading strategies (i.e., pre-teaching a key vocabulary word, reading and sharing information, retelling). The results of this study indicated that all three participants demonstrated noticeable improvements in reading comprehension. Despite the longer duration of intervention sessions, participants exhibited similar or better task engagement with intervention as compared to baseline sessions.

Taken together, these findings provide additional support for the efficacy of technology to teach reading skills to students with ASD. Major findings, implications, limitations, and directions for future research are discussed.


Bilsland Dissertation Fellowship


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Studies

Campus location

West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Mandy Rispoli

Additional Committee Member 2

Rose A. Mason

Additional Committee Member 3

Denise Whitford

Additional Committee Member 4

Carly A. Roberts



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