A Randomized Controlled Trial of Headsprout on the Reading Outcomes in Children With Autism Using Parents as Facilitators

Amanda Nally – Griffith University

Dr. Jennifer Holloway – ASK- All Special Kids Centre

Helena Lydon – University of Galway

Olive Healy – Trinity College Dublin


Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are considered an at-risk population for reading delays and challenges. In recent years, there has been emerging support for the computer-assisted instruction (CAI) Headsprout with respect to reading outcomes in children with ASD. CAI, often used within classrooms, is designed using automated and carefully sequenced instruction. A randomized controlled trial was used to explore the implementation of Headsprout by parents, including a treatment package (i.e., behavioral skills training, an online support group, and a consultative model) within the home environment, with their children with ASD. A between-groups design was used to evaluate the effects of Headsprout on the reading outcomes and print motivation of a sample of 26 children with ASD. Thirteen children were in the experimental (Headsprout) group, and thirteen were in the control group receiving treatment as usual. Supplementary online supports were provided to parents based on specific learning problems identified during the intervention. Results demonstrated that participants who received Headsprout showed greater gains in reading rate, word reading, non-word reading, and target sounds and words within Headsprout than the control group. The results of print motivation demonstrated that only Headsprout-specific print material resulted in an increase in assessed preference at posttests.