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Autism. 2016 Oct;20(7):771-82. doi: 10.1177/1362361315605624. Epub 2015 Oct 26.

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

Author information

The University of Edinburgh, UK
Newcastle University, UK.
The University of Edinburgh, UK.
University of Aberdeen, UK.
Western General Hospital, UK.


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 6 years 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.


autism spectrum disorder; intervention; randomised controlled trial; social communication; technology

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Conflict of interest statement

The iPad app described in this article has been licensed by a commercial developer and is now available as a free version on the Apple App Store and also as a priced ‘Pro’ version. Dr Fletcher-Watson, Professor Pain and Professor McConachie may receive royalty payments in future if downloads of the Pro version exceed a certain threshold.

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