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Umbrella Review of Psychosocial Interventions Mediated through Assistive Technology for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder Open Access


Other title
assistive technology
social communication
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Seatter, Kendra L
Supervisor and department
Smith, Veronica (Educational Psychology)
Examining committee member and department
Hodgetts, Sandra (Occupational Therapy)
Brown, Heather (Educational Psychology)
Smith, Veronica (Educational Psychology)
Department of Educational Psychology
Special Education
Date accepted
Graduation date
2017-11:Fall 2017
Master of Education
Degree level
Aim: In the past 20 years, a large body of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) intervention research has emerged. In addition, the number of systematic reviews (SRs) aimed at synthesizing that body of research has grown substantially. The present umbrella review collates information from multiple SRs of psychosocial interventions mediated through assistive technologies for children with ASD to 1) determine the quality of these reviews and 2) to determine best practice recommendations for assistive technology-mediated intervention in an applied setting. Method: SRs were identified through comprehensive searches of six electronic databases. Eligible studies met the following criteria: 1) publication date between 2006 and 2016; 2) description of systematic search procedures; 3) participants aged 0-12 with a diagnosis of ASD; 4) review of psychosocial intervention mediated through assistive technology, and 5) outcomes relevant to the core domains of ASD. The methodological quality of SRs was assessed using the Assessment of Methodological Quality of Systematic Reviews (AMSTAR) (Shea et al., 2007; Shea et al., 2009) and descriptive data were extracted. Results: Thirty-eight SRs of psychosocial ASD interventions mediated through assistive technology met the inclusion criteria. The interventions were divided into seven categories: video modeling (VM), Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), activity schedules, social robotics, computer based interventions (CBI), and ‘other’ tech-mediated interventions. The included reviews demonstrated varying degrees of methodological quality, but were overall low. Generally, results indicated positive effects of tech-mediated interventions on multiple outcomes related to the core domains of deficit for ASD. Interpretation: The findings of this umbrella review confirm that there has been an explosion of SRs focused on psychosocial ASD interventions. The SRs of tech-mediated interventions described positive effects, indicating promise for improving outcomes related to the core domains of symptoms for ASD. The findings are subject to bias due to the relatively weak SR methodological quality. Future SRs of high methodological quality synthesizing high quality primary studies will be required to confirm the positive effects of tech-mediated interventions for ASD.
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