Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

A trial of an iPad™ intervention targeting social communication skills in children with autism

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Sue Fletcher-Watson, Dr Alexandra Petrou, Emerita Professor Helen McConachie



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


This study evaluated a technology-based early intervention for social communication skills in pre-schoolers in a randomised controlled trial. Participants were 54 children aged under 6years with a diagnosis of autism, assigned to either intervention or control conditions. The app engaged children, who played consistently, regardless of developmental level, and was rated highly by parents. There were no significant group differences in parent-report measures post-intervention, nor in a measure of parent-child play at follow-up. Therefore, this intervention did not have an observable impact on real-world social communication skills and caution is recommended about the potential usefulness of iPad apps for amelioration of difficulties in interaction. However, positive attitudes among participants, lack of harms and the potential of apps to deliver therapeutic content at low economic cost suggest this approach is worth pursuing further, perhaps targeting other skill domains.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Fletcher-Watson S, Petrou A, Scott-Barrett J, Dicks P, Graham C, O'Hare A, Pain H, McConachie H

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Autism

Year: 2016

Volume: 20

Issue: 7

Pages: 771-782

Print publication date: 01/10/2016

Online publication date: 07/09/2016

Acceptance date: 02/04/2016

Date deposited: 21/10/2016

ISSN (print): 1362-3613

ISSN (electronic): 1461-7005

Publisher: SAGE Publications


DOI: 10.1177/1362361315605624


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric


Funder referenceFunder name
NCF/36343Nuffield Foundation
grant (no. NCF/36343) from the Nuffield Foundation to the first author (S.F.-W.).