An interactive classroom timetable for children with high functioning autism : development and qualitative evaluation of a computer-based timetable
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Murray, S. (2007) An interactive classroom timetable for children with high functioning autism : development and qualitative evaluation of a computer-based timetable, no. 508.
Teachers report that advanced knowledge of the day's activities can considerably lessen anxiety for children with autism, especially if this information is highly visual in its presentation. Teaching children with autism often follows a highly structured approach including use of visual planning aids, such as symbolic timetables (Gillberg & Coleman, 2000; Mesibov, Browder, & Kirkland, 2002). Children with autism have been noted to be skilled at using computers and it has been suggested that the computer presents an ideal resource for both educational and recreational use (Attwood, 1998; Higgins & Boone, 1996; D. Moore, 1998; Murray, 1997). However, in spite of widespread use of visual timetables in schools by children with autism, there is little evidence of research being conducted in the area of computerised timetabling for this population. The overall aim of this particular study was to develop an interactive, computer-based timetable and to explore and assess the practical value for children with autism. The research was of an ethnographic nature and involved a case study approach. The development of the interactive timetable followed a user-centred design. Participating children attended a language and communication class attached to a mainstream primary school in Scotland. Seven males aged between six and nine years of age were involved, with four of the children able to participate in the final evaluations of the interactive timetable. Other participants included special needs teachers, nursery nurses, speech and language therapists, and parents of participating children. Examination of a symbolic timetable identified several important issues relevant to the design of an interactive timetable, whilst consideration of parental and educationalist views, gathered through interview, highlighted both benefits and concerns. By extending use to the home environment, the interactive timetable was considered to facilitate communication between child and parent. Concerns regarding access, size and position, user ability, and availability of resources were identified. Although findings were inconclusive, it was possible to communicate timetable information in a computer-based form and furthermore, the children appeared to enjoy using the timetable. Whilst the setting for this study was a single language and communication class attached to a mainstream primary school, this research has implications for a wider debate. The study found generally that the prospect of using information and communication technology to display an interactive timetable which was accessible both at school and at home, offered numerous possibilities for children with autism and their families.