Assistive Technologies Dissertation

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University of Plymouth

School of Art & Media

BSc (Hons) Digital Art and Technology

Design of Assistive Technologies for use in Primary Education relating to Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

Ian Marshall

April 2013

Acknowledgements
I would like to thank all the support staff and teachers especially Chris Gentle, Head teacher Mount Tamar Special Community School I appreciated your insight, your understanding and feedback, and your time and commitment to my study, thank you for allowing me to conduct my study in the school.

Many thanks Christine Roberts MBA for being understanding of my time restraints and my chaotic schedule. I am grateful for your support, your guidance and suggestions.

To my University Mentor Jacqui Knight my advisor. Thank you for enthusiasm and dedication to your work. I appreciated your time and commitment to my work.

To Dr. Hannah Drayson Module Leader I appreciated your thoughts and your knowledge and your contributions to my work which were invaluable You inspired me with your wisdom, passion, and your support all through my program.

To Dr. Simon Lock course leader, your support this year with my problems have kept me going.

Finally, to my wife Sharon for your encouraging words and your support. Your strong work ethic inspired me to value my own work, your encouragement and for being understanding about my time.

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Abstract
The purpose of this study is to investigate assistive technologies used in primary education with specific reference to Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). These disorders received much attention due to their recorded steady rise over the last two decades (Synapse, 2008). Another aim is to investigate the development, design and benefits of assisted technologies to aid learning and coping mechanisms for primary students with ASD. Due to the correlation of information gathered from different websites I have deduced that there are three major characteristics in the recognition of Autism as a distinct developmental (ASD info.co.uk 2013). 1. Impairments in social interaction 2. Unambiguous communications 3. Restricted and repetitive behaviours. Although the specific diagnostic standard has changed over the years, individuals with ASD fail to receive appropriate intervention. In addition ASD sufferers exhibit disruptive behaviours, such as tantrums, aggression, and/or self-injury. Primary students with ASD experience tremendous difficulty interacting appropriately with their environment. Almost all parents of primary school age children who have Autism, experience high levels of stress related to this (Connie Kasari 2011). Using questionnaires, surveys, interviews and focus groups, data collection methods will be implemented and the process will be critically reviewed through analysis and evaluation. In addition research will involve the needs, wants and requirements of the ASD sufferers in primary education through the use of case study analysis. Furthermore the study will look at what technologies are already available, with a view to establishing the problems and gaps in this specific market.

With the increased availability of computers in homes and schools over the past fifteen years, there has been an enhanced use of assistive technologies to support ASD. Assistive technologies can be applied to any device, which is used to assist a primary student with ASD. This paper will research and evaluate the design and implication of assistive technologies to investigate a wider range of primary educational developmental tools to address the three major characteristics identified.

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Table of Contents Acknowledgements ........................................................................................................................................................ 2 Abstract ............................................................................................................................................................................ 3 CHAPTER ONE ................................................................................................................................................................ 5 Introduction ................................................................................................................................................................. 5 CHAPTER TWO................................................................................................................................................................ 7 Design .......................................................................................................................................................................... 7 Design Methodology ................................................................................................................................................. 8 Methods of design used in the fields of assistive technologies. .......................................................................... 8 Participatory design .................................................................................................................................................. 8 Human-centered design ........................................................................................................................................... 9 CHAPTER THREE .......................................................................................................................................................... 11 Funding for Assistive Technologies ....................................................................................................................... 11 CHAPTER FOUR ............................................................................................................................................................ 12 Existing Technologies .............................................................................................................................................. 12 Applications ............................................................................................................................................................ 13 Computer Aided Instruction (CAI) .......................................................................................................................... 13 Neurofeedback training .......................................................................................................................................... 14 Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) ............................................................................................................................ 14 Toys Video / Dvd .................................................................................................................................................... 14 Virtual Reality ......................................................................................................................................................... 15 Visual Supports ...................................................................................................................................................... 15 Robots .................................................................................................................................................................... 15 Prompting Devices ................................................................................................................................................. 16 CHAPTER FIVE .............................................................................................................................................................. 16 Research .................................................................................................................................................................... 16 Methods of Research ............................................................................................................................................. 17 CHAPTER SIX ................................................................................................................................................................ 18 Analysis ..................................................................................................................................................................... 18 CHAPTER SEVEN .......................................................................................................................................................... 21 Conclusions .............................................................................................................................................................. 21 CHAPTER EIGHT ........................................................................................................................................................... 22 Recommendations .................................................................................................................................................... 22 Referencing.................................................................................................................................................................... 23 Images ............................................................................................................................................................................ 25 Appendix ........................................................................................................................................................................ 26

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CHAPTER ONE
Introduction
The focus of this paper is to research the design process of assistive technologies and to explore if the requirements of the end users needs are identified. Initially it will identify how the design process is established at present to see if it meets the needs of ASD users. Research will be undertaken to establish whether this process is currently successful for primary aged students who have been diagnosed with ASD. A range of research tools will be used to investigate whether the assistive technologies are currently meeting the needs and requirements of the ASD sufferer.

At the beginning of writing this dissertation I have had some experience with children who have ASD. Some personal experiences will foreground some of the assertions I make in this study. My eldest son had been diagnosed with ASD at the early age of 5 and removed from the mainstream school system. On various occasions through his primary years he was awarded different assistive technology devices and software but many were not specific to his needs and did not fulfill their purpose. As his parents we found the different technologies and software were not specific to his diagnosed disabilities and although helping in certain ways wee not core specific to his needs.

ASD is a developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them (Education Support for Northern Ireland, 2013). Autism spectrum disorders form a diverse group all exhibiting 3 distinct impairments: social interaction, emotional expression and emotional recognition. Assistive technologies can ease these challenges. (Thurlow, M. L., Moen, R. E., Liu, K. K., Scullin, S., Hausmann, K. E., & Shyyan, V march 2009). Children with ASD and school-based teaching staff (e.g., teachers, teachers assistants, speech and language pathologists) use assistive technologies to complete tasks, manage daily routines, and engage in social interactions.

In the last few years, we have seen an increased number of software and technology solutions focused on helping and educating primary students with ASD in both the research literature and the marketplace. (Penny Reed, Ph.D., Elizabeth A. Lahm, Ph.D 2004). Software in this category has been designed for use on multiple different platforms including personal computers, assistive 5

technology devices and PDAs (personal digital assistant). Very little is known about how well or if, these solutions are integrated into the lives of primary students with ASD, this needs to be kept in mind when designing products for audiences with special needs. Through my research I believe that numerous development manufacturers of assistive technologies looked at a gap in the market and an opportunity to mass-produce products purely for financial gain.

My research has looked to the past decade in history and I have asked what types of software and technology have been designed for people with ASD. Through this I have realized students tried to describe their experience with those products? But I found that whilst experiences were generally good, relatively few students had not tried technology designed for people with ASD; and only a few people had used technology products designed specifically for ASD. (Cynthia Putnam, Lorna Chong, Oct 13, 2008). Focusing on information for future development and the attitudes toward assistive technology, the problem is not just a technical one, equipment might function flawlessly, but if the user rejects the products, can it be labelled a success? This is where design plays a part, since empathy is an intrinsic part of the process of ‘designing’ assistive technology for sufferers with ASD.

This act of putting yourself into the situation of the end user can be difficult, but assistive technology absolutely requires this insight. (Matt Dexter, 2013) In order to develop successful assistive technology; ASD individuals must be included in its design and development. However, due to the wide range of capabilities exhibited by each individual, it has been argued that there is no one solution for an assistive technology (Edwards, 2008). Opportunities for the user to have an input into the design of all assistive technologies should go beyond functionality and into preferences and designs, as devices “must be aesthetically ple asing, age appropriate, fashionable, and culturally and socially acceptable” (Peter Francis, 2004). Many, though not all, assistive devices are developed for relatively small numbers of users and sometimes even a single person. There are examples of assistive products for which there is widespread demand, such as hearing aids and wheeled mobility frames for elderly people. Since, assistive products are often supplied to users by health or social services or non-governmental organisations, the immediate purchaser is often not the end-user. Therefore, the design may need to satisfy the enduser, not the funder or purchasing organisation. Many standard user interfaces in consumer products are inaccessible or difficult to use by particular groups of ASD students and/or other people. (Marion A. Hersh, 2008)

Parents can help to identify potential assistive technologies for their children if they learn about the choices that are available. Also a good place to start on the road to design is often with speech6

language therapists, occupational therapists and school professionals. The major downfall of assistive technologies for primary students lies within the design and consultation phase, the criteria for the design takes on specific requirements, if these are not addressed, then the product is bound for failure.

CHAPTER TWO
Design
Parent participation is vital to a child’s success. This may seem like a bold statement, but I believe the truth is that the parents of an ASD child when not involved in their child’s therapy programs has indicated that the likelihood of success will be much lower. (Autism Community, 2010) when children and parents are involved in the development and implementation of devices, the intervention procedures are more likely to be used if it is perceived that the child is likely to learn and use additional skills more quickly. If, on the other hand, teachers and therapists develop and implement interventions but these interventions are not supported or implemented at home, the skills are likely to be learned slower and the likelihood of them having long term benefit is going to be limited. (Autism Community, 2010)

I believe through my readings and research designers should engage children with ASD in the process of design; user group members should be introduced to the process and become participatory members. Designers put up barriers to the involvement of this so how should it be stopped and addressed and overcome, also when and how? Should the meetings of design partners take place? How should the presentation of these meetings be arranged? Should outcomes of the involvement of the user group be fed into the design, does the evaluation of prototypes occur into the classroom? I believe it should. The word “design” takes on a variety of noun and verb meanings as a noun my collative research from many standard dictionaries suggest concepts of sketch, drawing, plan, pattern, intention or purpose, or the art of producing them. As verb dictionaries suggest elements of definition involving representing an artifact, system or society, or the fixing of its look, function or purpose. To me the word “design” therefore has meanings ranging from the conception of something to the actual plans and processes required to achieve it.

Design starts with the needs of the user, no design no matter how good, clever and innovative it is will be pointless if it doesn't fulfil the end users need, many products and services, have failed 7

because the people behind them didn't take this into consideration. Finding out what the user wants is the first stage of what designers do. The designer then builds on the results of that inquiry with creativity and insight. Although instinct is part of the designer's tools, there are more scientific ways of making sure the design hits the mark. Different designers use different methods combining market research, user testing, and prototyping and trend analysis. Any product launch is ultimately a gamble, but these methods help decrease the risk of failure.

Design Methodology I have needed to research the way in which manufacturers of assistive technologies come to decisions it is most definitely though Design Methodology which is a framework of steps that have been designed to be a guide for all of the activities that happen during the design process. My research proves that here is no such thing as a ‘standard’ design process because it is almost always described in a slightly different way by many sources. Even so, design methods almost always contain the same basic steps/phases: Planning/Idea Generation, Concept Development, System Design, Detail Design, Testing/Trial and Manufacture.

Using Design Methodology in the development of a system or method for a situation is most often applied to technology sectors in reference to web design, software or information systems design. The best way for this approach of Design Methodology to work is finding the best solution for each individual situation, even if it is an industrial design, architecture or technology.

Design Methodology uses brainstorming to encourage innovative ideas and collaborative thinking to work through each idea and arrive at the best solution. Meeting the needs and wants of the end user is the most critical concern. Design Methodology is used in many industries; it is commonly applied in technology fields, including those using the Internet, software and information systems development. I do not believe these methodologies are sometimes specific enough and do not always target individual needs of ASD children although this seems very hard to prove.

Methods of design used in the fields of assistive technologies.
Participatory design I have found designers of a technology are sometimes in a position to deicide what the end users can achieve or not achieve with the use of their product. In any social interaction, we have expectation as to what others can and cannot do. Technology design is particularly relevant in this capacity. While technology can enable what would sometimes be extremely hard, it can also limit the users behavior. Technological design is also very complex it requires extensive knowledge of 8

the sector. Designers, however, typically have little knowledge of the particular environment of the end user. Participatory design is used because the end users need to have a feeling that they have major input, they would then have a better use of the technology. Some users may simply use a limited set of functionality and ignore the potential value of the technology while others can use it creatively.

Users and designers can work together to create a design; vision, or understanding, designers will take an in-depth observational study of end users in order to gain an understanding of the users situation. Users experience new technologies with a prototype and modify the prototype together with designers. They then create mock-ups, often using materials, to arouse users to think about the potential technology.
  

Involves users as much as possible so that they can influence it Integrates knowledge and expertise from other disciplines than just Information technology Is highly iterative so that testing can ensure that design meets the users requirements

Below is a figure showing the participatory design process

Figure 1

Human-centered design Human-centered design (HCD) is the process, which end-users influence how a design takes shape and it places the user at the center of the design HCD will increase the likelihood that the system will be successful and meet the needs of the user. ISO 9241-210 defines the following principles of HCD. It should: include clear understanding of user and task and environmental requirements encourage the early and active involvement of users be driven and refined by usercentered evaluation include iteration of design solutions addresses the whole user experience encourage multi-disciplinary design User requirements specification is essentially a multidisciplinary and human-centered approach, requiring effective communication with a range of stakeholders and system designers. It should be undertaken during the initial stages of design and be constantly reviewed throughout the development process. As such, the whole process should facilitate participatory design, involving and empowering users in system design and development. 9

ISO 9241 is a standard set by International Organization for Standardization (ISO) covering ergonomics of human-computer interaction. It is overseen by the ISO Technical Committee 159, originally titled Ergonomic requirements for office work with visual display terminals (VDTs), from 2006 the standards were retitled to the more generic Ergonomics of Human System Interaction.

Below is a figure showing the HCD design process

Figure 2

So really I think designer must know what ASD students are capable of and how the product being designed will be used. Then the designer can be sure that ASD students will be able to use it successfully. In most cases, the designer of a product and the eventual user are not the same, so there is a gap in understanding between the way a designer will view a task and the way that an ASD student will view a task. Step one is for the designer to understand the requirements of the task. The requirements define the functionality that the product needs to have so that it can perform the function. Step two is in understanding how the ASD student will utilise the product. This is important because if the user cannot actually use the product it will be of little use to them, even if the product is actually capable of performing the function.

The use of technology in the education of children with autism will have positive and beneficial effects. There are few adequate purpose written solutions available, however there is on-going research being undertaken. In addition, there is very little methodological guidance and humancomputer interaction guidelines for the development of technology for this user group. It is considered that there would be benefits to children with ASD when involving them in the participatory design process, when designing technology. There has been limited research so far into how we can involve children with autism in this process I would look at standardising a methodology for the ASD sector.

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CHAPTER THREE
Funding for Assistive Technologies
Funding is available to assist with the purchase of assistive technology in many cases, but I have found through extensive research that arrangements for funding varies hugely between local government’s i.e. school, higher and further education, the skills sector and the workplace. Many assistive technologies are now available.

One such organisation to assist in funding is BATA (British Assistive Technology Association, 2010), which has been formed to promote the interests of people needing assistive technology, and advises government and other agencies BATA campaign for the rights and interests of those needing assistive technologies. They also provide expert and impartial support and advise to government departments and agencies. They try to educate and inform widely on the benefits of assistive technology they promote British Assistive Technology products and expertise at home and overseas. Assistive technology and telecare services are sometimes provided by the NHS following an assessment and as part of continuing health care or intermediate care services. However, provision will vary across NHS trusts.

The Labour government had a policy of inclusion, under which the aim was to give any child with mild to moderate learning difficulties a place in a mainstream school the policy aimed to end the situation where children were effectively kept separate from their more able peers however, some children have learning difficulties or disabilities severe enough for them to be educated separately in special schools. The Conservative-Liberal Democrat government says, in its coalition agreement, that it will "prevent the unnecessary closure of special schools, and remove the bias towards inclusion" the number of state and private special schools in England has fallen from 1,197 in 2000 to 1,054 in 2010. A Green Paper proposes a new single category of SEN and a single assessment process. Children with SEN should be identified in both early-years settings and in schools.

By 2014, the government wants those identified with SEN to have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), which will support them children from birth to the age of 25. This will replace the current statutory SEN assessment and statement and allow professionals from different social services areas to work together more closely. The Green Paper proposes a personal budget, by 2014, for all families with children with a statement of SEN or Education, Health and Care Plan. It also sets out to "remove the bias towards inclusion" and "prevent the unnecessary closure of special schools", giving parents the choice of a mainstream or special school for their child. (BBC, 2011) 11

The coalition government have now put in place from April 2013 a number of changes to the way schools and special educational needs (SEN) will be funded. These are national changes from the Department for Education (DfE) and all local authorities will need to follow the regulations, with little flexibility, in working out school budgets as well as in the way they fund Statements of Special Educational Needs. The DfE believe that the current system is inconsistent and unfair, with local formulae used to fund schools, which are very complicated. The aim is to use a consistent national funding system that is transparent and easier to understand. It is expected that the revised formula may result in the redistribution of funding for some schools. (Haroon Chowdry Luke Sibieta, November 2011)

As in many cases when a new government comes to power its aim is to make the system fairer and more transparent but there may be adverse consequences for individual children and young people. There may be problems particularly in local authorities that previously funded high needs statements in full for each individual child. Schools that may lose out are: Schools in well-off areas that will not attract funding for deprivation and low prior attainment,

I have concerns about some of the possible consequences of the changes for example, cuts in support staff so that children miss out on the help they need, fewer resources for the successful inclusion of children in a mainstream school which I have experienced with my son’s move back into mainstream school also some mainstream schools may be less keen to accept high needs pupils.

CHAPTER FOUR
Existing Technologies
The next chapter will explore the technologies currently available at the time of writing my dissertation along with the way that the future outlook for the assistive technology market is going to be merged with the evolution of more general technology. Mainstream devices are going to get better at doing more of the basic things like text-to-speech, and more apps will be developed. This will mean that the assistive technology industry will become more specialised and focus to a greater extent on an individual’s specific needs.

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The use of consumer technology in our lives, such as the use of smartphones and other mobile devices, has created an expectation that services can be accessed anywhere, at any time for a small cost. The problem is that assistive technology is a niche market, unlike the mainstream consumer market with its high volumes and low price points. This discrepancy is creating both opportunities and challenges for some companies as they try and balance ease of access to assistive technology with an affordable price. (Mark McCusker, 2013) There are other devices, however that will not be affected by technology advances, for example switches to help with access of computers. Currently there are many forms assistive technologies available on the market today.

Examples of these are found below. Applications Apple’s touch screen devices have revolutionised the way children and young people on the autism spectrum are able to learn, develop and communicate. There are thousands of applications available to parents, educators and people with autism, from expensive communication solutions to fun games for both children and adults alike. Prices vary dramatically, and some of the more complex applications are worth the investment. But there are also lots of cheap and free applications that are also very effective in helping people with autism develop a wide range of skills. (Autism Education Trust, 2013)
Figure 3

Computer Aided Instruction (CAI) CAI is the use of computers to teach skills as well as to promote communication and language development skills. It includes computer modelling and computer tutorials assisting the individual student to learn at his or her own pace. Educational computer programs are available online and from computer stores and textbook companies. (Wisegeek, 2013)
Figure 4

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Neurofeedback training This Includes a range of therapies in which individuals are taught to control their own physiological functions such as heart rate, muscle tension, and brain waves. Some people believe that Neurofeedback training can be used to alleviate some of the problems facing people with autism – such as anxiety, and poor attention. (Research Autism, 2013
Figure 5

Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) Original PDAs were limited to storing addresses, phone numbers, calendar appointments, and task lists. Modern PDAs often work as a cell phone and fax, provide Internet connectivity, and much more. There are many different types, but almost all models can connect to a computer to synchronise information and access other optional features. (Wisegeek, 2013)
Figure 6

Toys Video / Dvd There are learning toys available that can assist students who have autism in the to improve fine motor skills, emotions, language and communication, social skills, coordination, thinking & reasoning, sensory development, sequencing, and imagination. All of these are areas that teachers of autistic students work on with their students. (The Sensory Spectrum Shop, 2011).
Figure 7

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Virtual Reality This is a realistic simulation of an environment by a computer system. The technology takes you to a scene that feels and looks real; it can be a safe way to learn to interact with others. Virtual reality allows children with autism spectrum disorder to practice all-important reciprocal social interaction skills in a safe environment. (Mark Hutten, 2011).
Figure 8

Visual Supports Visual supports are tools that are used to increase the understanding of language, environmental expectations, and to provide structure and support for individuals with ASD. Visual Supports can be provided in a variety of ways across multiple settings. For instance, you can use the supports in school, home, work, and within the community.
Figure 9

Robots Children engage with robots in play scenarios that are developed according to specific therapeutic or developmental objectives that are relevant for a particular child. The games are chosen in collaboration with teachers/carers/therapists. During play, children with ASD can explore social interaction and communication in a safe and enjoyable manner. (University of Hertfordshire, 2009).
Figure 10

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Prompting Devices These devices use computer vision and artificial intelligence to track children with ASD through an activity and issues audio and visual prompts as required

Figure 11

CHAPTER FIVE

Research
The previous chapters focused on presenting background knowledge necessary for understanding the factors that influence the use and design of assistive technologies by students with ASD. It discussed issues that posed challenges for designers whilst also taking into consideration funding for assistive technologies. This chapter will present the findings obtained from research, by setting out the results of the teacher and parent’s initial questionnaires also the results and observations of the case study that has been undertaken at John Chard School.

John Chard School is the primary students section of Mount Tamar School in Plymouth and is the subject of the case study questionnaire and observations. It is a community special school serving all four key stages with 7–11-year-old pupils who have social, emotional and behavioural problems. There are 28 pupils registered who are split equally between 4 separate classes, regardless of individual special educational needs. There is a teaching staff of five and a support team of five; these are equally divided among the four classes allowing a teacher and support member to be available when needed.

The school provides for pupils with a statement of special educational needs, primarily for social, emotional and behavioural difficulties. There are an increasing number of pupils with complex learning difficulties, for example autistic spectrum disorders and communication difficulties.

A very small minority of pupils are girls; the main school houses both the primary and secondary provision. A small proportion of pupils are able to stay in the boarding provision from Monday to 16

Thursday. The school also manages classes of primary-aged pupils in a local primary school as well as a secondary unit based in the Devonport area of the city. Almost all pupils are White British in origin.

Methods of Research Selecting the research methods was a crucial element in the research process. I made the decision to use a variety of research methods, which were mainly qualitative methods through interviews with teachers and observations and examination of documentary evidence in order to form case studies. In addition some initial quantitative research methods were undertaken to gather background evidence of teachers and parents experience and attitudes. Case studies were used to follow up the initial survey and to examine students, teachers and parents perceptions and judgements. It fits the research objectives of investigating how assistive technologies are used in their teaching and how they are supported or otherwise in the school.

An initial survey questionnaire was given to teachers and parents. The questionnaire evolved after being trialled with a teacher who was not part of the sample. The questionnaire was designed to be quick and easy for teachers and parents to complete, with several questions involving a choice of tick boxes, with a minimum amount of written response required. The questionnaire can be found in Appendix. Fourteen questionnaires were distributed and fourteen returned.

The next stage was undertaking the research to form the case studies. I visited the school and conducted an interview with the Head Teacher. Reference is also made to the most recent Ofsted report available for the school; see Appendix. In the case study an examination was made of the pupils work using assistive technology and in some cases informal lesson observations were undertaken during these visits. These were used to provide a recognised context for the case study and to draw some conclusions using the Ofsted annual subject report. It was important to understand the experiences of teachers and parents in order to gather information to provide the background to the case studies. The questionnaire was confidential; anonymity in the report was promised and respected. The questionnaires provided a range of responses. These responses were subsequently analysed providing both quantitative and qualitative results.

The data collected from the questionnaires and school visit form much of the substance of the next chapter. It evaluates the specific experiences of students, teachers and parents in order to avoid making generalisations. The findings from my research are compared to findings from my background reading, official reports and online journals. The questionnaires have been analysed and presented in a statistical format. These statistics have been compared with other research, 17

especially the findings of the Ofsted report. The data collected from interviews and classroom observations during school visits.

CHAPTER SIX
Analysis
This chapter shows the data collection that was used. Each of the types of data collection was relevant to the findings. Of these, the most extensive source of data collected came from the questionnaire responses. This study brought to my attention important considerations for the use of assistive technologies, however some potential limitations are noted. For example, generalisation of the findings beyond the questions should be undertaken with caution for several reasons. First, the questionnaire was small, limiting the generality of the findings. Similarly, the questionnaire is based on a group of early childhood special education students and teachers from only one school.

A second limiting factor is that the respondents may have been limited in their understanding regarding some of the assistive technology devices. It is unclear if technologies rated as never useful indicate that respondents were unfamiliar with the assistive devices or that they considered them as not effective for working with young children with ASD. Finally, given that the students in the study had been working in the SEN sector of special education for a range of years, I do not know the extent to which they were familiar with recent technologies introduced in the market. Consequently, recent technologies on the questionnaire may not have been included.

I found after interviewing different teachers and support staff that the use of assistive technology to help learning is a very effective approach for many students with ASD. I ascertained assistive technology does not cure or take away learning difficulties, but it can help the students reach their potential allowing them to capitalize on their strengths and move around areas of difficulty. For example, a student who struggles with reading but who has good listening skills might benefit from listening to audio books this seemed very student specific.

On my visits to John Chard School I found that provision for the pupils is a matter for the school as a whole. The school’s head teacher Mrs Chris Gentle and all other members of staff have important day-to-day responsibilities. Whatever arrangements are made for meeting the needs of children with SEN in a particular special school, the statutory duties remain with the governing body rather than with the school staff. After various meetings with the head teacher I drew some conclusions and better understanding on the day-to-day running of the school. 18

Through further meetings I discovered that when the Local Education Authority (LEA) in this case Plymouth City Council has awarded an ASD student with a SEN statement, the funding was taken away. There is no consultation with the community special school, and it was a purely financial award for placement. The individual needs of the student such as specific assistive technology were not even considered. This was further reinforced when I discovered the needs of individual students on the autistic spectrum scale ranged from attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), bipolar spectrum disorder (BSD), Asperger's syndrome (AS) and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS). I observed the different traits first hand, and I concluded that not only the ranges or varying scale of disorders but the individual needs for assistive technology, in my opinion were not being addressed.

Furthermore the use of assistive technology was on a general scale with the use of mainly computer orientated software programs. This was somewhat out-dated as my previous research indicated that up and coming assistive technologies are not in place within the school or local LEA. In addition there is no one to coordinate the need for new innovative assistive technology, or even ascertain specific needs for individual students. Teachers, and support workers were able to make suggestions as to where they would source assistive technology and assistive devices.

The questions on the questionnaire, which were presented to teachers and support staff, were fundamentally different than that of the survey to the parents. The results were overwhelming. 80% state that they have not made use of the assistive technology whether it was a device or software program. In contrast, 20% have used such technologies. This indicates that students are possibly not being encouraged to use the available assistive technology.

Relating to the use of assistive technologies, 75% of the participants reported having been allowed to use assistive technology in the classroom, while 25% of them have not. Regarding the positive impact of using assistive technology on the academic performance of students with ASD, 96% believe assistive technologies makes a significant difference in students’ performance, yet 3% of the participants disagree. The participants, who agree on the positive impact of assistive technologies, explained that assistive technologies could help students perform tasks that they struggle with. Moreover, the assistive technologies is one of the strategies that educators must consider to help children better overcome their challenges.

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Participants reported that the students should obtain what they need in the classroom to help them improve academically, and they believe that assistive technologies give them the opportunity to acquire the assistance they need. On the other hand, 10% of the participants agreed that assistive technologies for students with ASD depend on the situation, as well as on the kind and degree of the ASD.

Regarding the funding for assistive technologies, the majority of the participants agreed via the questionnaire “All students with disabilities regardless of their ASD should have an opportunity to get the assistive technology they need”. They confirmed that funding and costs are the major barriers that may prevent students with ASD from gaining access to assistive technologies. Teachers’ knowledge of assistive technologies regarding teachers’ awareness of the benefits of using assistive technology, 80% of respondents believe teachers are not completely aware of the benefits, yet 10% believed that teachers acknowledge the importance of assistive technology. The greater percentage of the participants agreed that schools should provide assistive technology to students with ASD because LEA are responsible for educating students and funding them. 10% believe that schools are not obligated to provide assistive technology and no explanation was reported regarding that belief. In response to the questions on both the teacher and parent questionnaires, which were: “Were you consulted in the Design process?” and “Is your child involved in the trialling of Assistive Technologies and giving feedback?” 93% agreed with the necessity of designers interacting with the students and trialing students with ASD on how to use assistive technologies. In contrast 7% disagreed with the previous statements due to the difficulties that students with such issues might have to the general curriculum.

The participants identified many advantages regarding the use of assistive technology in the classroom. For example, a number of the support staff indicated that assistive technology could help in terms of having inclusive classrooms for all students, regardless of their ASD. Participants reported that assistive technologies might help students in some ways to achieve their academic tasks. Assistive technologies could allow students with ASD to be independent and participate in the curriculum. However, respondents also state that assistive technologies might have some disadvantages, such as labeling students with ASD negatively, which could also cause emotional harm.

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CHAPTER SEVEN
Conclusions
Questionnaires were distributed to parents, teachers and teaching assistants asking them to give responses based on their current knowledge of assistive technology. The reactions of the parents and teachers have been based on their perceptions of the current understanding of, and exposure to, assistive technologies.

In summary, the study showed that teachers and parents had awareness of low-level and midlevel assistive technologies for ASD, in addition to modest awareness of high-level technologies. The Internet is proving to be a great asset to families with autistic children. There is a serious focus among families to acquire new assistive technologies for their children, though the concern about the effectiveness and cost of those technologies is high. All participants in the survey have shown enthusiasm to participate in any future studies including experimental work.

The study also indicated the enthusiasm to acquire assistive technologies, both by parents and by teachers in the school. There is a lack of access to information about the latest developments, lack of sufficient funding and acquisition of assistive technology, and the shortage of professional staff who can provide support to a family at a purchasing level. There are indications of growth of awareness and development among families and professionals, which will ultimately benefit the ASD students. There is a need for structured training programs to train the trainers and families on the use of technology and to achieve the goal of increasing the chi ld’s use of assistive technologies.

Furthermore the study has concluded the need for a designated team approach. The team needs to include people who have knowledge of the child, his/her strengths and limitations, and the range and scope of potential assistive technology options to address specific needs. The team should have access to assistive technologies to use in structured device tests in the environment in which the student will be using the technology for example home, school, etc. This allows for device data to be moderately analysed; in particular different device features and functions can be compared to determine which best addresses the child’s functional needs. Using this analysis, the team can make convincing decisions about the design and acquisition of assistive technology.

21

CHAPTER EIGHT
Recommendations
The significance of involving students of all assistive technologies in the design processes cannot be over stated. The findings of this dissertation suggest that there are significant, but not overwhelming issues for designers working with students with ASD.

The recommendations I considered relating to each design methodology provide some insight to those who may need to engage with students with ASD in the design stage of developing assistive technologies. The recommendations are important in that research has indicated that designers come from experiences that do not engage with such groups. They are not aware of their characteristics and special needs and the challenges they can present. The designer should be familiar with the students and have knowledge in advance as to whether problems are likely to occur.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a philosophy that incorporates learning models, methods and products to enhance the educational experience of varied ASD students. In this approach, assistive technologies are often built into educational materials and can be customised to help students with disabilities to be successful with the general curriculum. The results derived from UDL’s recognised testing, which assesses intelligence, or severity of ASD, might be accommodating in some circumstances, however, knowledge of other features is also important. This applies to perceptive, psychological, and physical abilities.

The final balance of user-designer input into the design process was not covered in this research, which was mainly aimed at extending the ability of designers to involve students with ASD in the design process. There is opportunity for continued work in design methodologies for people with ASD.

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Referencing
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Autistic Spectrum Disorder Fact Sheets. Available:http://www.autism-help.org/points-autismepidemic.htm. Last Accessed Date:12/01/2013.

ASD info.co.uk (2013). what is ASD. Available:http://www.asdinfo.co.uk/whatis.htm. Last Accessed Date:04/01/2013.

Connie Kasari (2011). Associations between Parental Anxiety/Depression and Child Behavior Problems Related to Autism Spectrum Disorders: The Roles of Parenting Stress and Parenting Self-Efficacy. Available:http://www.hindawi.com/journals/aurt/2011/395190/. Last Accessed Date:18/02/2013.

Thurlow, M. L., Moen, R. E., Liu, K. K., Scullin, S., Hausmann, K. E., & Shyyan, V (march 2009). Understanding the Effects of Disabilities and Their Relationship to Reading Instruction and Assessment. Available:http://www.readingassessment.info/resources/publications/DisabilitiesReadingReport/PA RADisabilitiesReadingReport.html. Last Accessed Date:23/02/2013. Penny Reed, Ph.D., Elizabeth A. Lahm, Ph.D (2004).Students’Needs forAssistiveTechnology. A Resource Manualfor School District Teams. 4th edition(3), 337.

Cynthia Putnam,Lorna Chong (Oct 13, 2008).Software and Technologies Designed for People withAutism. What do users want?. 1st edition(4.2), 8.

Kintsch, A., & dePaula, R. (2002). A framework for the adoption of assistive technology. Retrieved from http://www.cs.colorado.edu/∼l3d/clever/assets/pdf/ak-SWAAAC02.pdf

Peter Francis (2004). Techniques to include users with autism in the design of assistive technologies.(PDF) available:http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CDYQFjA A&url=http%3A%2F%2Fciteseerx.ist.psu.edu%2Fviewdoc%2Fdownload%3Fdoi%3D10.1.1.87.77 23

52%26rep%3Drep1%26type%3Dpdf&ei=uLFmUfaoFNKk0AXVq4GoCA&usg=AFQjCNHAwlgFlczx 578CCEqzyaWiCn5M4Q&sig2=7A9pApwqa35GWy6GmaMN3g&bvm=bv.45107431,d.d2k. Last Accessed Date:11/4/2013.

Matt Dexter (2013). User-centred design of assistive technologies. Available:http://research.shu.ac.uk/lab4living/user-centred-design-of-assistive-technologies-mattdexter. Last Accessed Date:26/02/2013.

Marion A. Hersh (2008). The Design and Evaluation of Assistive Technology Products and Devices . Available:http://cirrie.buffalo.edu/encyclopedia/en/article/309/. Last Accessed Date:26/02/2013.

Autism Community (2010). Parent Participation. Available:http://www.autismcommunity.com/education/parent-participation/. Last Accessed Date:23/02/2013.

British Assistive Technology Association (2010). news. Available:http://www.bataonline.org/. Last Accessed Date:04/02/2013.

Haroon Chowdry Luke Sibieta (November 2011).School funding reform. Institute for Fiscal Studies. 1(2), 64.

Mark McCusker (2013). Assistive technology: techno turnaround. Available:http://www.senmagazine.co.uk/articles/1131-how-assistive-technology-provision-is-settoAutism Education Trust (2013). Apps for Autism. Available:http://www.autismeducationtrust.org.uk/Global/News/Apps%20for%20Autism.aspx. Last Accessed Date:1/03/2013.

wisegeek (2013). What Is Computer-Assisted Instruction?. Available:http://www.wisegeek.org/what-is-computer-assisted-instruction.htm. Last Accessed

Research Autism (2013). Neurofeedback Training and Autism. Available:http://researchautism.net/autism_treatments_therapies_intervention.ikml?print&ra=145&i nfolevel=3. Last Accessed Date:1/04/2013.

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wiseGEEK (2013). what is a PDA. Available:http://www.wisegeek.org/what-is-a-pda-personaldigital-assistant.htm#. Last Accessed Date:1/04/2013. The Sensory Spectrum Shop (2011). How Toys Can Help Children With Autism. Available:http://www.sensoryspectrumshop.com/category.php?category_id=186. Last Accessed Date:13/04/2013.

University of Hertfordshire (2009). Kaspar. Available:http://www.herts.ac.uk/about-us/casestudies/KASPAR-the-friendly-robot-helping-children-with-autism-to-communicate.cfm. Last Accessed Date:22/04/13.

Mark Hutten (2011). Virtual Reality and Learning Social Skills: Help for Aspergers Children . Available:http://www.myaspergerschild.com/2011/09/virtual-reality-and-learning-social.html. Last Accessed Date:22/04/13.

BBC (2011). special education needs. Available:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-11296012. Last Accessed Date:11/04/2013.

Images
Figure 1 http://weadapt.org/knowledge-base/social-learning/community-participation-andmonitoring Figure 2 http://journal.code4lib.org/articles/561 Figure 3 http://www.brainline.org/landing_pages/categories/technology.html Figure 4 http://autismsocietyofnc.wordpress.com/2013/02/18/seeing-is-believing/ Figure 5 http://www.syracuseneurofeedback.com/neurofeedback.html Figure 6 http://ourlifewithaspergers.blogspot.co.uk/2010/11/using-pda-for-help-with-aspergers.html Figure 7 http://www.tudelft.nl/en/current/latest-news/article/detail/hoe-ontwerp-je-voor-kinderenmet-autisme/ Figure 8 http://korinah79.wordpress.com/2009/10/10/virtual-reality-and-autistic-childrenresearchtechnology-science-innovation-frontiers/ Figure 9 http://card.ufl.edu/content/visual.html Figure 10 http://www.soundtherapy.org.uk/255/autistic-kids-embrace-the-future/ Figure 11 http://allthingsd.com/20130128/brotherly-love-prompts-young-entrepreneurs-autism-app/

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Appendix

QUESTIONNAIRE FOR PARENTS and CHILD
March 2013 Dear Parents I would be really grateful if you could help me. I am trying to find ways to help children within Mount Tamar School to have better learning aids and equipment for example Ipads, these things are known as Assistive Technologies. Please be advised that all returned questionnaires will be treated with the strictest confidence. Your help and the help of your child in filling in this questionnaire is appreciated.

Please return the completed questionnaire in the envelope attached to the reception at school by __________.

Many Thanks

Ian Marshall

QUESTIONNAIRE FOR PARENTS and CHILD 1.For what specific tasks does your child use the Assistive Technology at school? ………………………………………………………………………………………….. ………………………………………………………………………………………….. …………………………………………………………………………………………..

26

2.When and how often does your child use the Assistive Technology during the school day? ………………………………………………………………………………………….. ………………………………………………………………………………………….. ………………………………………………………………………………………….. 3.How long did your child wait for the Assistive Technology to be provided? ………………………………………………………………………………………….. ………………………………………………………………………………………….. ………………………………………………………………………………………….. 4.What related services, if any, will your child need in order to use the Assistive Technology effectively? ………………………………………………………………………………………….. ………………………………………………………………………………………….. ………………………………………………………………………………………….. 5.What other support services does your child need in order to use the Assistive Technology effectively? ………………………………………………………………………………………….. ………………………………………………………………………………………….. …………………………………………………………………………………………..

6.Is your child involved in the trialling of Assistive Technologies and giving feedback? YES / NO If yes, please comment below 27

………………………………………………………………………………………….. ………………………………………………………………………………………….. …………………………………………………………………………………………..

7.If your child uses Assistive Technology only at school, how do you know if it is working? ………………………………………………………………………………………….. ………………………………………………………………………………………….. …………………………………………………………………………………………..

8.Are there changes in your child’s learning since using Assistive Technology? ………………………………………………………………………………………….. ………………………………………………………………………………………….. ………………………………………………………………………………………….. 9.How does your child feel about using Assistive Technology for learning? ………………………………………………………………………………………….. ………………………………………………………………………………………….. …………………………………………………………………………………………..

10.Are there any benefits for your child in Assistive Technology for learning? ………………………………………………………………………………………….. ………………………………………………………………………………………….. …………………………………………………………………………………………..

28

11. Are you or your child consulted regarding the appropriate use of Assistive Technology? ………………………………………………………………………………………….. ………………………………………………………………………………………….. ………………………………………………………………………………………….. …………………………………………………………………………………………..

12.Are there any drawbacks of the Assistive Technology for learning? YES / NO If yes, please comment below ….……………………………………………………………………………………… ………………………………………………………………………………………….. …………………………………………………………………………………………..

13.Are there any other places and situations in which this Assistive Technology for learning might be useful? ………………………………………………………………………………………….. ………………………………………………………………………………………….. …………………………………………………………………………………….. 14.Are there any further comments you would like to add regarding Assistive Technology? ………………………………………………………………………………………….. ………………………………………………………………………………………….. 29

Assistive Technology Questionnaire
Date_____________

Name of person completing this form

Position Please circle the number that represents your feelings as to how affective Assistive Technology equipment you use benefits your ASD students.

Technology Characteristics Not Effective Very Effective

1. Reliability/dependability

1

2

3

4

5

2. Accomplishes its purpose 3. Can be used independently by the students 4. Is compatible with existing technology 5. Appropriate to the users visual abilities 6. Appropriate to the users physical abilities 7. Ease of use 8. Adequate staff support and training Contextual Match

1 1 1 1 1 1 1

2 2 2 2 2 2 2

3 3 3 3 3 3 3

4 4 4 4 4 4 4

5 5 5 5 5 5 5

1. Socially appropriate/acceptable

1

2

3

4

5

2. Can be used well in the classroom/location

1

2

3

4

5 30

3. Avoids conflicts with noise, lighting, time

1

2

3

4

5

4. Space is available for its use

1

2

3

4

5

5. Ease of portability across settings

1

2

3

4

5

6. Are the students happy using the device?

1

2

3

4

5

Technology Benefits to the Students

Not Beneficial

Very Beneficial

Students make frequent use of the device

1

2

3

4

5

Device helps to improve academic performance Device aids a higher percentage of completed tasks

1 1

2 2

3 3

4 4

5 5

User enjoys working with the device in class User benefits from using the device in class User needs the device to benefit from current educational curriculum Is there a likelihood students will continue to use the device out of school time? Is the current Assistive Technology an improvement over previous equipment?

1 1 1

2 2 2

3 3 3

4 4 4

5 5 5

1 1

2 2

3 3

4 4

5 5

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General Questions please add your thoughts

Does the Assistive Technology meet the needs of the Students? …………………………………………………………………………………………….. …………………………………………………………………………………………….. ……………………………………………………………………………………………..

Were you consulted in the Design process? …………………………………………………………………………………………….. …………………………………………………………………………………………….. ……………………………………………………………………………………………..

What level of achievement is reasonable to expect from the students using Assistive Technologies? …………………………………………………………………………………………….. …………………………………………………………………………………………….. ……………………………………………………………………………………………..

How do you know if the Assistive Technology is working or not? …………………………………………………………………………………………….. …………………………………………………………………………………………….. ……………………………………………………………………………………………..

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Do the students use a number of devices?

Yes / No

Do the students have a preference to a particular type of device?

Yes / No

If yes, please comment below as to why there was a preference

…………………………………………………………………………………………….. ……………………………………………………………………………………………..

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