A mobile platform for teaching nonverbal social communication skills to high-functioning autistic children using discrete trial training


Author/Creator ORCID




University of Baltimore. School of Information Arts and Technologies


University of Baltimore. Doctor of Science in Information and Interaction Design

Citation of Original Publication


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The purpose of this project is to provide a mobile platform for teaching nonverbal social communication skills to high-functioning autistic children. The application uses the established method of Discrete Trial Training to deliver customizable programs that can be tailored to meet the unique needs of children with autism. Although the focus of this study is nonverbal social communication skills related to gestures, the mobile app (designated "Wave") enables the teaching of a wide array of basic skills, including attention, perception, reasoning, memory, reading and writing, and motor skills, through matching exercises, imitation exercises, and natural environment training. Wave allows programs to be customized and enables adjustments to be made to fit the specific educational needs of an ASD (autism spectrum disorder) child. Its portability supports learning at any time and in any location, allowing users to take the classroom experience with them and to transfer the learning process to natural environment settings, including family settings and public environments. Furthermore, it helps teachers to save time by allowing them to reuse programs and decreases their workload by offering easy access to monitoring children's data. For this project, two versions of an initial interactive prototype (one for iPhone and one for iPad) were created using Axure in order to test the mobile delivery method. Four user tests were conducted with these versions to identify the user requirements for designing the application. Findings from these tests were used in developing the second prototype application, which was built using jQuery Mobile. Two pilot tests and twelve user tests, with participants who included Discrete Trial Training experts, were conducted using the app on an iPad. These user tests resulted in overall improvements of the application to enable it to support the needs of educators, parents, and autistic children.