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Mediating sociality: the use of iPod Touch™ devices in the classrooms of students with autism in Canada

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This study explores the roles that lower-cost, handheld touch technologies might play in the communication functions of children diagnosed on the autism spectrum. It reports on a case study of the use of Apple iPod Touch mobile digital devices in a public elementary school in downtown Toronto, Canada. Drawing from Vygotskian sociocultural theory researchers examined the consequences of handheld touch technologies on the communication and sociality of children with communicative disorders, with a primary emphasis on nonverbal autistic children. In the period between January 2010 and June 2010, iPod Touch devices were introduced into six elementary classrooms. While there were gains in communication for all participants, ranging from mild to significant, nine of the 12 students for whom we collected detailed data demonstrated statistically significant improvement in communication skills. Observations are made about the heightened levels of motivation, increased attention spans, and increased social interaction that students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) exhibited when using these devices. Future research should explore the connection of touch-sensory inputs on the communication development of children with ASDs.
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Keywords: communication studies; computer-mediated communication; e-learning; interactivity; mobile technology; young people

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Institute of Communication, Culture, Information and Technology, University of Toronto Mississauga, CCT Building, 3359 Mississauga Road North, Mississauga, ON, Canada L5 L 1C6

Publication date: November 26, 2014

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