This project explored autistic children’s use of technology at home, and what their parents thought about their child’s technology use, through a parent survey and follow-up interviews.
We asked parents of autistic children to complete an online survey which asked questions about their child’s use of technology at home. Questions were asked about what kinds of technology their child used at home, how often their child spent using technology, and parent attitudes and concerns about their child’s use of technology. All materials associated with this research, including a copy of the survey in English, the processed dataset and analysis script, and summaries are available in the library post.
We invited responses from families internationally, and also included families where children had additional support needs. In our analysis, we also include report from parents of grown-up children.
One of our main findings was the range of technologies which autistic children reportedly used in the home, from iPads and other tablets, to games consoles such as the Wii. We did not find much report of children using apps or technologies specifically designed for autistic people, and did not find a high rate of the use of augmented and alternative communication (AAC) devices. Instead, parents talked about how their children enjoyed playing video games, watching videos on YouTube, listening to music, and doing independent research on the internet.
We found that parents had concerns about the amount of time that their child spent using technology. Level of concern about screen time was associated with parents reporting that their child spent longer using devices.
In conclusion, we found that autistic children use a wide range of technology and use technology for a broad range of leisure purposes. Whilst some parents had concerns about their child’s technology use, many reported the benefits of their child using technology to direct their own learning. We think this paper is important for looking further into the indirect benefits of technology use in autistic children, and exploring family barriers to accessing technology-based supports such as AAC.
Unfortunately this project didn’t have independent input from the autistic community, apart from those people involved as participants in the research.
Laurie, M. H., Warreyn, P., Uriarte, B. V., Boonen, C. & Fletcher-Watson, S. (2018). An international survey of parental attitudes to technology use by their autistic children at home. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. DOI: 10.1007/s10803-018-3798-0 [full text article] [data] [library post]
The anonymised and processed dataset, including survey responses, data glossary, and anaylsis scripts are available on Edinburgh Datashare here
We thank all of the participating families in this research project.
We received support on recruitment from Fundaciόn Orange (Orange Foundation), the Adult Autism Spectrum Cohort – UK, the Database for People Living with Autism in the North East, and the National Autistic Society UK.
MHL is supported by a Chancellor’s Fellow studentship from the University of Edinburgh. No other funding is associated with this project.
There are mixed opinions within the autistic community on the preferred language used to talk about autism, though the trend seems to be towards identity-first language (see this blogpost, this other blogpost, and our research group language statement). However, most parents, as far as current research evidence goes, prefer person-first language and we feel indebted to them as participants in this study. Therefore, we used person-first language to refer to children and identity-first language when talking about adults/autistic people of all ages.
If you have any further questions about the project please contact firstname.lastname@example.org