Enhancing social problem solving in children with autism and normal children through computer-assisted instruction

J Autism Dev Disord. 2001 Aug;31(4):377-84. doi: 10.1023/a:1010660502130.


Children with autism have difficulty in solving social problems and in generating multiple solutions to problems. They are, however, relatively skilled in responding to visual cues such as pictures and animations. Eight distinct social problems were presented on a computer, along with a choice of possible solutions, and an option to produce alternative solutions. Eight preschool children with autism and eight matched normal children went through 10 training sessions interleaved with 6 probe sessions. Children were asked to provide solutions to animated problem scenes in all the sessions. Unlike the probe sessions, in the training sessions problem solutions were first explained thoroughly by the trainer. Subsequently these explanations were illustrated using dynamic animations of the solutions. Although children with autism produced significantly fewer alternative solutions compared to their normal peers, a steady increase across probe sessions was observed for the autistic group. The frequency of new ideas was directly predicted by the diagnostic category of autism. Results suggest young children with autism and their normal peers can be taught problem-solving strategies with the aid of computer interfaces. More research is required to establish whether such computer-assisted instruction will generalize to nontrained problem situations in real-life contexts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder / psychology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Computers
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Problem Solving*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Perception
  • Teaching*
  • Therapy, Computer-Assisted*