The incidence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the U.S. remains high with one out of 68 children diagnosed with a ASD, reports Science Daily. Yet, the incidence disproportionately affects young males more often at one in 42 than in young females, which ASD affects one in 189 young females. Since the incidence has continued to stay near these rates for several years, educators must start looking toward new ways to help those with ASD continue with post-secondary education.
Post-secondary education is not a right, explains Autism Speaks, but educators with autism training are learning how to leverage today’s technology to enable students with an ASD to attend college course, vocational program and beyond. However, this new development is not without criticism or merit, and you need to know what it means for the future of using applied behavior analysis (ABA) in the classroom setting.
What Challenges Do Students With an ASD Face in Post-Secondary Education?
The use computer technology to increase the efficiency and speed of delivering DTI as part of ABA is showing further promise in helping students learn to adapt to changes in environmental and social factors during post-secondary education. For example, students must be willing to adapt to the following changes in college:
- College students with ASD may have new living arrangements with peers.
- Personal responsibility for obtaining personal services.
- Inability to adapt programs to meet disability needs with respect to core concepts. However, universities and colleges must make accommodations for those learning and physical disabilities as part of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Unfortunately, it is up to the student to bring these needs to light.
- Transportation arrangements to get to and from school.
- Students must monitor and control individual progress.
These factors are not comprehensive, and students with ASDs who seek post-secondary education face challenges constantly. In a study, “The Needs of College Students With Autism Spectrum Disorders and Asperger’s Syndrome,” researchers identified four primary subcategories where the needs of students with ASDs could be measured. These subcategories include the following:
- Social needs. Participants in this study cited easier ways to meet and interact with peers as a chief concern, but many did not understand what the question actually meant, indicating a need for more work on academic skills, such as reading comprehension.
- Academic needs. Academic needs were primarily focused on a combination of social needs during academic activities. For example, participants in the study reported increased anxiety and trouble when working in groups as part of post-secondary courses.
- Needs of daily living. Independence skills made up the core of needs of daily living. Even among students who lived away from home while attending college, struggles with finding independence and leaving past views on help from others occurred.
- How well needs are being met. The final subcategory found many students with an ASD were actually using what might be termed a form ABA without realizing it, social media. In social media, students were connecting with others who had similar experiences beyond physical perceptions and boundaries. Since students were able to “see the conversation,” they were better able to learn how to respond to others.
Computer Interaction Is Next Wave of ABA
ABA is built on the concepts of behavior modification through rewards and reinforcement of positive behaviors. With the rise of digital technology, ABA is taking a new form in interactive computer models and programs.
The use of computer-interactive models in DTI has the potential to allow students with ASD to continue to learn appropriate behaviors on their own accord. Essentially, the self-sustained action of continued development of positive skills within computer-interactive systems serves as a virtual educator, which is nearly identical to the positive effect seen in students with an ASD who engaged other students via social media.
The benefits of computers in ABA are being felt beyond social media too. A recent study in Brazil, published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, found interactive computer training is enabling educators to perform more intricate and complicated scenarios with students in discrete-trial instruction (DTI).
The findings of the study also pertain directly to college students with an ASD. The study’s authors developed a set of DTI courses for university students with an ASD to follow. In all observations, the participants in the study demonstrated increased skill sets and positive behaviors. However, 62 percent of study participants required feedback regarding proficiency. In other words, students who were rewarded digitally or physically for completing the program demonstrated the highest positive outcome.
What Do Computer-Based Interactions Mean for the Future of Autism Training?
Think about your continuing education courses. Did you take them in person or online? Regardless, you found a benefit of the information, and the same principle is being used in ABA for those with an ASD. As a result, caregivers and educators will see more ABA-based programs for interactive learning available in both elementary and secondary schools, and the evidence for computers to help those with an ASD excel in college is only growing more conclusive.
Only time will tell if the incidence of ASDs increases, but society is starting to understand how those with an ASD can leverage technology through applied behavior analysis to enhance learning and improve cognitive development. Moreover, the investment into computer-based instruction as part of ABA will likely be less costly than purchasing supplies for previous ABA models. It finally appears the digital age has entered the realm of teaching those with an ASD more about their roles and capabilities.