In an initial investigation, Lahm (1996) examined software features used in commercially available programs for their effect on engagement, affect, and choice. Data from 48 alternating treatment design studies suggest that children with disabilities, including autism, prefer programs with higher interaction requirements, animation, sound, and voice features. They show more positive affect and engage more frequently with computer programs that use preferred features and actively choose between programs based on preferences for these features.

Have you ever wondered what helpful or harmful effects technology may have on those with autism? You don’t have to be a person who utilizes modern-day advancements, in business or otherwise, to know that technologies are playing a critical role in our society. Imagine your day without a cell phone. Would your life be different?

If we examine our own individual behavior around technology, we’re able to better understand the impacts of technology when combined with autism. There are pros and cons when dealing with technology and the main question is; does the good outweigh the bad?

“Individuals with autism often need external stimulus prompts to initiate, maintain, or terminate a behavior [1].” A self-operated system can be used to expel prompts such as, “Keep going”, “pay attention”, etc. It has been seen to decrease inappropriate, off-topic behaviors, and increase productivity in school and work.


Videos are used often with parents, educators, and clinicians due to their ease of use. In the late ’80s, there were two studies that found a strong connection to children with Autism watching videos and learning conversational speech, purchasing skills, emotion perception, increased fluency, daily life skills, and more. Autistic people have been known to imitate behaviors, which will then be used in their daily life [2].


One of the most technologically used systems is the computer. It has been used to teach how to understand emotions, improve vocabulary, reading, spelling, and communication skills. One study created a computer-based tutor to help students with Autism to improve vocabulary and grammar. After 30 days of mastering the chosen lesson, there was an 85% recall rate.

Computers have an advantage due to their portability, accessibility, and ability to increase communication and allow accessibility to visual learning. Tablets and phones can be carried anywhere, which allows ease of use. Touchscreens improve typing skills while documents and texts can allow non-verbal communication to occur. A paper and pencil can be used, but handwriting can be difficult due to the lack of fine motor skills [5].

Computer Games

There are different computer games that can teach the importance of eye contact, social interactions, and empathy. It can become a great tool to create independence. Computers can help people order food online so they do not need to deal with the complexities of going to the grocery store. There are different sites that can cater to different interests and those with autism can communicate with those of the same interests. There is facial recognition software that can be used to help autistic people learn more about nonverbal communications [4].

While this study showed a vast improvement, it did not show the disadvantages of using computers. It is easy for Autistic children and adults to become addicted to screens. It is easy to have disturbances of sleep, due to screens suppressing melatonin, which can create even more problems due to Autistic people having a lack of melatonin already.

Too Much Stimulation Can Be Harmful

Also, while being in front of a screen, it can create a stimulant that can have a major effect. For example, autistic children who have large amounts of time in front of a screen have been known to become weepy, hyper-focused, have heightened aggression, and can create or exacerbate sensory issues [3]. It can also create a rift in family dynamics. The child might be stimming, screaming, or acting unbecoming and the parent may hand over a tablet to quiet the child. While this can calm down the child, it can lead to issues of self-soothing later. It is possible that after some time of using this tactic to calm the child, it may become the only item that can work instead of the many other tools that can be used, such as weighted blankets, singing, quiet stimming, and more.

East Of Communication Takes The Stress Off

Technology is helpful due to giving access to those with limited verbal communication, helping people understand verbal, non-verbal, social, and more. It allows connection with other people that they may have never or would have talked to in the real world, and it helps people find and utilize the information that is accessible through the internet. On the other hand, it may cause increased irritability, stimming, anger, and hyper-focus. There are also issues with an autistic person becoming so invested in technology that they begin to ignore the outside world.

Technology is both helpful and harmful, and best if used sparingly in many cases. The best way to moderate use of technology, and monitor persons with Autism when it comes to using technology too much is by ensuring the user has adequate social interaction. ABA Therapy provides social interaction, as well as other life-long learning skills and working as a Behavior Technician is an excellent way of helping people. It’s like they always say, everything in moderation.