Parent attitudes to using technology with children with autism in the home: a comparison of the UK and Spain

Susan Fletcher-Watson, Alyssa Alcorn, Helen Pain

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Background: People with autism are known to be heavy users of technology, and to show a very common facility for working and learning in this way. Additionally, there is evidence to show that early intervention for young children with autism is beneficial in maximising positive outcomes. Therefore it would seem appropriate to provide technology-based learning and therapeutic opportunities to young children with autism. However this is at odds with official guidelines from organisations such as the British Medical Association on so-called ‘screen time’ for young children. Further concerns include the risk of triggering unhelpful obsessive and ritualized behaviours, and that technology time prohibits real-world social interactions.
These conflicting perspectives produce challenges for researchers and for parents in formulating the best use of technology to support children with autism. It is crucial to begin to provide an autism-specific evidence base on the use of technology.

Objectives: The proposed research gathered the attitudes of parents of children with autism to the use of technology at home, collecting responses in the UK and Spain.
Methods: An online survey was circulated to parents of children with autism who are already users of technology. The survey gathered background demographic data, details of technology use (e.g. available hardware and software, preferred activities) and attitudes to technology. Survey data in the UK are enhanced by interviews with 8 parents on the same topics.
Results: Responses from over 480 parents are being analysed (UK n=233, Spanish n=256). These data will reveal patterns in how parents use technology to support their child with autism at home. We aim to describe the most popular forms of technological hardware, the most popular software (specific games or apps) and the ways in which technology is used at home. Initial findings indicate that parents feel largely positive about technology (see Fig 1) but that concerns are also present and these are stronger in the UK than Spain (Fig 2). One possible reason for this international difference is that Spanish parents are more likely to supervise their children while they interact with technology (Fig 3).
Conclusions: These will consider whether international differences in attitudes to technology reflect differences in parental approach, or social and cultural contexts. Data will be interpreted in an effort to formulate best practice for the use of technology to support children with autism. In addition, the study findings will be synthesized into a short guidance document for parents, to be published and circulated by the National Autistic Society (UK) and Fundacion Orange (Spain). Draft copies of this will be available at the conference.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014
EventInnovative Technologies and Autism Spectrum Disorders II - Paris, France
Duration: 3 Oct 20144 Oct 2014


ConferenceInnovative Technologies and Autism Spectrum Disorders II


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