Using Activity Schedules on the iPod touch to Teach Leisure Skills to Children with Autism


Although activity schedules are often presented to learners in book form, this format may be cumbersome and socially stigmatizing to a child with autism. Conversely, presenting an activity schedule on an iPod touch may provide a more socially acceptable format, in that it would be more discreet and allow for easy portability, especially if supports, such as prompts and an adult’s presence, are eventually removed. The present study investigated whether an iPod touch could be used to effectively teach activity schedule following involving independent leisure activities to four children with autism. Manual prompts, progressive time-delay procedures, and reinforcement were also used. Prompts were faded using a progressive time-delay procedure, and experimenter proximity to the participants was faded until she was no longer present. A multiple-probe-across-participants design was used. Prior to intervention, none of the participants followed the schedule and they rarely engaged in on-task behavior. Following intervention, all participants learned to independently follow leisure activity schedules presented on the iPod touch and increased their on-task behavior. In addition, these skills generalized to novel settings and novel schedules, and maintained over time. Social validity measures suggested that the participants preferred to follow activity schedules using the iPod touch. Community members also rated the use of the device as more typical of age-related peers and more socially acceptable in the community. The implications of incorporating technology to increase independence in children with autism are discussed.