iPad App complements ASD therapy

Dr Jessica Edwards


Jessica received her MA in Biological Sciences and her DPhil in Neurobehavioural Genetics from the University of Oxford (Magdalen College). After completing her post-doctoral research, she moved into scientific editing and publishing, first working for Spandidos Publications (London, UK) and then moving to Nature Publishing Group. Jessica is now a freelance editor and science writer, and started writing for “The Bridge” in December 2017.

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Children with autism spectrum condition (ASC) may benefit from combined technology-based and traditional interventions, according to new research. Andrew Whitehouse and colleagues assessed the efficacy of TOBY (Therapy Outcomes By You) in a randomised controlled trial (ACTRN12614000738628). This is an iPad application to help children and carers structure home-based therapy.

The trial included 80 children within 12 months of an ASC diagnosis, who were assigned their usual therapy or usual therapy plus TOBY. Significant improvements were identified at 6-months follow up for secondary outcomes (visual reception and fine motor skills, and single-word comprehension) but not for primary outcomes (Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist).

Although those assigned to use TOBY did not effectively sustain its use after the first 3 months of the trial, 70% of carers reported that TOBY was “a helpful therapy planning tool”. The overall exposure to therapy per child increased, as a result of using TOBY, with minor cost implications.

Whitehouse, A. J. O., Granich, J., Alvares, G., Busacca, M., Cooper, M. N., Dass, A., Duong, T., Harper, R., Marshall, W., Richdale, A., Rodwell, T., Trembath, D., Vellanki, P., Moore, D. W. & Anderson, A. (2017), A randomised controlled trial of an iPad-based application to complement early behavioural intervention in Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Child Psychol Psychiatr, 58:1042-1052. doi:10.1111/jcpp.12752

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