SymTrend is seeking funding to bring low-cost, technology-afforded power and efficiency to the special education (SPED) of a lower functioning child with autism (LFCA). Each LFCA has a federally mandated, individualized education plan (IEP). An effective IEP requires intensive school and home-based behavioral monitoring: iterations of behavioral data recording, progress charting, and team communication. SymTrend will extend the functionality of its current Internet and PDA system for behavioral monitoring to include the use of digital pen technology for recording on specially printed forms. The project will then test the two types of electronic monitoring (PDAs and digital pens) against current pencil and paper monitoring. It is hypothesized that an electronic system with four components - i.e., forms generation, data recording, progress charting, and team communication - will reduce the time burden of behavioral monitoring and enable schools to meet the IEP needs of its students within the constraints of very restrictive educational budgets. Objectives: The three objectives of this project are 1) to design and implement a four-component behavioral monitor for IEPs that is easy-to-use, cost-sensitive, and has the power and efficiency to optimize and sustain behavioral improvement in LFCA;2) to incorporate functionality for an extensive range of a) learning contexts, b) types of behavioral measurement, and c) progress charting formats that meet IEP reporting requirements;and 3) to contrast electronic behavioral monitoring with standard paper methods in terms of: a) efficiency, b) power, and c) acceptance. Design and Methods: The test of the system will include a sample 56 children participating in one of four programs for LFCA: two in public school systems, one in a private special education school, and one in a home-based program. LFCA will be monitored by parents and more than one type of professional both at school and at home. Monitoring will occur in the context of skill learning and disruptive behavior elimination. Professionals will keep track of their time and effort doing behavioral recording, charting, and communicating with other members of the IEP team. The research design includes within-subject comparisons of baseline paper monitoring versus one of the two forms of electronic monitoring in terms of efficiency, power and acceptance. Significance: The electronic behavioral monitoring system created to support IEP use with LFCA can also be used with higher functioning children with autism (HFCA), other developmental disabilities (e. g., ADHD), other clinical uses (e.g., depression and anxiety), academic use (e.g., university level behavioral science) and commercial use (e.g., human factors studies).
As the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders continues to rise and the shortage of special education resources becomes more dramatic, the need for electronic tools that reduce the time burden of implementing an individual education plan (IEP) with pencil and paper methods becomes more apparent. SymTrend is requesting funding to expand its Internet and PDA-based system for 1) recording behavior, 2) charting progress, 3) generating forms for #1 and #2 and 4) communicating reports within the IEP team to include digital pen technology. Although this system will be tested with lower functioning children with autism, it has immediate relevance to a wide range of special education, mental health, and medical applications.