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Title: Can computers increase the efficacy of an intervention designed to enhance theory of mind in children with autism? : an evaluation of a new computer intervention
Author: Dixon, Rebecca
ISNI:       0000 0004 2700 9769
Awarding Body: University of East London
Current Institution: University of East London
Date of Award: 2009
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Deficits in theory-of-mind (ToM), the ability to attribute mental states to oneself and others, are thought to underlie many of the social difficulties that characterise autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Studies report that teaching improves performance on ToM tasks, but there is limited evidence of generalisation. Computer technology has been found to have particular utility when teaching individuals with ASD. However, there have been few studies that compare the efficacy of approaches. Twenty-seven children (mean age 7.9) with diagnoses of high functioning autism (HFA) were tested on a range of pre-intervention measures, including verbal ability, ToM tasks, and parent and teacher ratings of social functioning. Participants were assigned to one of three groups: Kar2ouche Thought-Talk Tasks, a computerised ToM intervention; a ToM intervention presented in traditional book form; or a control group. After accessing the intervention over a five week period, all subjects were re-assessed on similar measures. Assessments were repeated again three-months later. Data were analysed in a series of ANOVAs. Despite not reaching statistical significance, results indicate that subjects who accessed ToM interventions improved on their ability to pass ToM tasks, when compared to the control. Both intervention groups also improved on their ability to recognise emotions to a statistically significant level, whilst the control made no improvements. As performance on these tasks had exceeded expectations at the beginning of the study, further improvements raise important questions regarding group characteristics, as well as highlighting the potential value of ToM-based interventions. Parent ratings reported positive changes in ToM abilities over the course of the intervention, regardless of group assignment. Teacher ratings were less positive and did not differ according to group, suggesting that interventions had effect on specific skills, but generalisation was limited. Few differences were found between the computer and the book groups on any measures, indicating that in the present study, computer-technology did not appear to increase efficacy. Further research that directly compares the efficacy of ToM interventions is recommended.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Ed.Ch.Psy.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available