Submissions List TBI Interagency Conference

The OASIS Project: Using Technology to Bridge Science and Practice for Young Children with Autism

  • Heitzman-Powell, Linda


Bridging science and practice: Applications of technology to the needs of people with disabilities


This presentation will provide an overview of the use of technology to teach evidence-based strategies to parents of young children with autism living in geographically remote areas of the mid-west. Following the overview, a case study will be presented, following the family from entry through completion of the 16-week program.


In the 1970s, the term "autism" referred to autistic disorder which, at the time, was reported to affect only one in 2,000 children (0.5%)  (Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2009).  By the 1980s, within developmental disabilities, autism spectrum disorders were ranked fourth behind mental retardation, epilepsy, and cerebral palsy (Powers, 1989).  Autism is now considered to be a common developmental disorder with staggering financial, emotional, and social costs to families, states, and federal agencies (Alexander, Cowdry, Hall, & Snow, 1996).  CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network (ADDM) surveillance studies suggest that autism affects 1 in 110 children across all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups.  The number of pre-school children ages 3-5 diagnosed with autism in the United States doubled from 15,581 in 2002 to 39,434 in 2007.  The sharp increase has resulted in a growing demand for intervention services that far exceeds its availability (Mandell & Palmer, 2005; Newschaffer and Curran, 2003).  As with any other chronic and debilitating disorder, early, intensive and comprehensive intervention is of paramount importance. While training parents to implement effective interventions can significantly reduce the cost of services, limitations imposed by geographical location or transportation prohibits many families from accessing appropriate training. The lack of access can have devastating effects on child-outcomes as well as the overall quality of family life. This project seeks to address this access and training deficit by evaluating the Online and Applied System for Intervention Skills (OASIS) Training Program, a program that uses a Research-to-Practice Outreach Training model to teach parents of children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) how to implement empirically-based interventions with their children. The evaluation of the OASIS program is determine by a) conducting a between-group experimental analysis of the effectiveness of the OASIS training program developed during a previously funded development project, and b) conduct a within subject analysis of the effects of OASIS on parent knowledge and skill fluency with implementation of behavioral techniques with their child, family quality of life, and child language and social engagement post treatment and during follow-up measures. Preliminary data from the initial development project suggest the online component increased parental knowledge. On this measure, parents scored a mean of 57.74% (range, 47.9% to 77.1%) correct at pretest and 93.57% (range, 75% to 100%) correct at posttest.  Mean pre- to posttest knowledge gain was 35.83% (range, 12.5% to 90%).  The mean pre- to posttest gain for the families was 39.13%. For skill application (pre- and post-training performance on the ABA skill assessments), the mean pretest performance was 31.6% (range, 14% to 46%), and the mean posttest performance was 65.7% (range, 37% to 83%).  The mean gain score was 41.23 points. A case study from the current research project (which includes a between group comparison) will be presented. The presentation will provide video-samples of the baseline assessment and an example of coaching sessions. This will be followed by the presentation of case-sample data from pre-post intervention for parent knowledge and skill.