Article Details

Research Database: Article Details

Citation:  Gentry, T., Kriner, R., Sima, A., McDonough, J., and Wehman, P. (2014). Reducing the need for personal supports among workers with autism using and iPod Touch as an assistive technology: Delayed randomized control trial. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders,
Title:  Reducing the need for personal supports among workers with autism using and iPod Touch as an assistive technology: Delayed randomized control trial
Authors:  Gentry, T., Kriner, R., Sima, A., McDonough, J., and Wehman, P.
Year:  2014
Journal/Publication:  Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Publisher:  Springer Science+Business Media
Full text: 
Peer-reviewed?  Yes
NIDILRR-funded?  Yes
Research design:  Randomized controlled trial

Structured abstract:

Background:  Personal digital assistances hold promise to be effective assistive technologies for people with cognitive and behavioral challenges like ASD. To date most of the literature has focused on using this type of technology to help children. There are a some studies that support the use of personal digital assistants for adults with disabilities like Traumatic Brain Injury, multiple sclerosis, intellectual disability, Alzheimer's and mental illness. Research on the use of PDAs, smartphones and tablet computers for workers with ASD is limited. State vocational rehabilitation spends a lot of money on employment services. Finding new and innovative ways to reduce case cost expenditures via using assistive technology could prove beneficial.
Purpose:  The purpose of the study was to determine if the use of an Apple iPod Touch, as trained by an occupational therapist, would significantly reduce the need for personal supports in performing job duties and building competence on the job. The examiners hypothesized that the group that received the device and training prior to employment would require fewer job coaching support hours than the other group who received it and training 12 weeks later.
Setting:  The study took place in various types of work settings where each individual with ASD was employed.
Study sample:  The study sample included 50 individuals with ASD who were clients of the state's vocational rehabilitation program. Most were males (84%) and ranged in age from 18 to 60 years. Most lived at home (86%) and the majority or (68%) had conversant skills. Half were assigned to the "now" group. These are the people who received the AT and training prior to going to work. The remainder were assigned to the "delayed" group and received the same 12 weeks after their job placement.
Intervention:  The intervention included four components. A detailed workplace AT assessment by an OT along with the individual with ASD, job coach and employer; identification of an individualize suite of iPod Touch-based applications and strategies to support the participant at work; training the participant to use the AT and apps on the job and follow along and fading of supports as the worker learned to use the device at work.
Control or comparison condition:  The control was business as usual. The delayed group received job coach services.
Data collection and analysis:  An initial assessment was conducted using a demographic survey and CHART (Craig Handicap Assessment and Rating Technique) review. The job coach completed the Supports Intensity Scale Employment Subscale and the Employee Performance Evaluation Report (EPER) at prescheduled intervals. The EPER was used as a dependent measure of job performance. Data was collected on hours worked, job coach hours worked (only face to face or telephonic support), support needs and work performance across 24 weeks. The OT collected intervention data that included notes and hours. of AT training, follow along and more. Participants were also interviewed at the close of the study.
Findings:  Training in the use of a PDA reduced job coaching among all participants. However, starting sooner was more effective. The reduction in the job coach hours was great enough to set off the cost of the AT intervention which means a potential cost saving for state vocational rehabilitation.
Conclusions:  The study support previous research into the use of mobile devices as vocational support aides. The HAAT model appears to be a sound one to provide this type of intervention. More research is needed as this type of AT continues to evolves. This study show that a mobile device can offer cost effective support and may improve employment outcomes for individuals with ASD. Research should also explore how devices may impact career development too. Research is also needed to develop applications and support users with varied abilities.

Disabilities served:  Autism / ASD
Populations served:  Gender: Female and Male
Interventions:  Assistive technology
Outcomes:  Other