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Use of iPad and mobile devices in children with autism spectrum disorders: A systematic review

Ebert, Anna

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability often associated with challenges in behavior and communication (Center for Disease Control; CDC, 2016a). Approximately 1 in 42 children have ASD and its prevalence is expected to remain constant based on current trends (Xu, Strathearn, Liu, & Bao, 2018). Children with ASD can have a range of communication skills including being completely nonverbal to having a large vocabulary and being able to converse about certain topics in rich detail (NIDCD, 2017). Children with ASD have been reported to learn more effectively from computerized assistance compared to traditional methods (Williams et al., 2002). With 95% of people in the United States owning some form of mobile device, this modality of intervention can be easily accessed by most individuals (Pew Research Center, 2017). Although prior researchers have examined the possible benefits of iPad-based intervention among individuals with ASD, the overall evidence for these types of intervention is currently lacking. The current study is therefore an attempt to determine the existing evidence for the use of iPad and mobile devices as the primary language intervention method for children with ASD. Language interventions could include receptive and expressive language based activities with focus on areas of pragmatics, semantics, and syntax. A thorough electronic search was conducted utilizing 14 databases followed by the screening of articles based on pre-determined inclusion and exclusion criteria. The results of this review suggest that iPads and mobile devices may be effective for language intervention among children with ASD. However, the existing literature has some limitations. It is thus important that the current findings are interpreted with caution.