Increasing reading and communication skills in children with autism through an interactive multimedia computer program

Mikael Heimann, Keith E. Nelson, Tomas Tjus, Christopher Gillberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

195 Scopus citations


This paper reports on the effect of using an interactive and child-initiated microcomputer program (Alpha) when teaching three groups of children (N=30) reading and communications skills: (a) 11 children with autism (M chronological age, CA=9:4 years), (b) 9 children with mixed handicaps (M CA= 13:1), and (c) 10 normal preschool children (M CA=6:4 years). Their mental age varied from 5:8 years to 6:9 years and all children received computer instruction supplementary to their regular reading and writing activities. Tests of reading and phonological development were carried out at the onset of the training (Start), at the end (Post 1), and at a follow-up evaluation (Post 2). In addition, video observations of the childrens' verbal and nonverbal communication were added at Start and Post 1. The children with autism increased both their word reading and their phonological awareness through the use of the Alpha program. Clearly significant gains were observed during the intervention, but none during the follow-up period. A similar but weaker pattern is observed for the children with mixed handicaps. In contrast, the normal preschool children increased their scores regardless of the program. Analyses of the children's classroom behavior indicate that the intervention succeeded in stimulating verbal expressions among the children with autism and mixed handicap. A significant increase in enjoyment was also noted for the children with autism. It is concluded that the intervention with a motivating multimedia program might stimulate reading and communication in children with various developmental disabilities, but that such interventions must be individually based and include both detailed planning and monitoring from teachers, and parents, as well as from clinicians in charge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)459-480
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 1995

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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