A randomised controlled trial of a computerised intervention for children with social communication difficulties to support peer collaboration

Murphy, Suzanne and Faulkner, Dorothy (2014). A randomised controlled trial of a computerised intervention for children with social communication difficulties to support peer collaboration. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 35(11) pp. 2821–2839.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ridd.2014.07.026

Abstract

An intervention aiming to support children with social communication difficulties was tested using a randomised controlled design. Children aged 5–6 years old (n = 32) were tested and selected for participation on the basis of their scores on the Test of Pragmatic Skills (TPS) and were then randomly assigned to the intervention arm or to the delayed intervention control group. Following previous research which suggested that computer technology may be particularly useful for this group of children, the intervention included a collaborative computer game which the children played with an adult. Subsequently, children's performance as they played the game with a classmate was observed. Micro-analytic observational methods were used to analyse the audio-recorded interaction of the children as they played. Pre- and post-intervention measures comprised the Test of Pragmatic Skills, children's performance on the computer game and verbal communication measures that the children used during the game.
This evaluation of the intervention shows promise. At post-test, the children who had received the intervention, by comparison to the control group who had not, showed significant gains in their scores on the Test of Pragmatic Skills (p = .009, effect size r = −.42), a significant improvement in their performance on the computer game (p = .03, r = −.32) and significantly greater use of high-quality questioning during collaboration (p < .001, r = −.60). Furthermore, the children who received the intervention made significantly more positive statements about the game and about their partners (p = .02, r = −.34) suggesting that the intervention increased their confidence and enjoyment.

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