© 2017 Serret, Hun, Thümmler, Pierron, Santos, Bourgeois and Askenazy. Learning to read is very challenging for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), but also very important, as it can give them access to new knowledge. This is even more challenging in minimally verbal children, who do not have the verbal abilities to learn through usual methods. To address the learning of literacy skills in French minimally verbal school-aged children with ASD, we designed the serious game SEMA-TIC, which relies on non-verbal cognitive skills and uses specific learning strategies adapted to the features of autistic individuals. This study investigated the usability of SEMA-TIC (in terms of adaptability, efficiency, and effectiveness) for the acquisition of literacy skills in French minimally verbal school-aged children with ASD. Twenty-five children with ASD and no functional language participated in the study. Children in the training group received the SEMA-TIC training over 23 weeks (on average), while no intervention was provided to children in the non-training group. Results indicated that SEMA-TIC presents a suitable usability, as all participants were able to play (adaptability), to complete the training (efficiency) and to acquire significant literacy skills (effectiveness). Indeed, the literacy skills in the training group significantly improved after the training, as measured by specific experimental tasks (alphabet knowledge, word reading, word-non-word discrimination, sentence reading and word segmentation; all p ≤ 0.001) compared to the non-training group. More importantly, 3 out of 12 children of the training group could be considered as word decoders at the end of the intervention, whereas no children of the non-training group became able to decode words efficiently. The present study thus brings preliminary evidence that French minimally verbal school-aged children with ASD are able to learn literacy skills through SEMA-TIC, a specific computerized intervention consisting in a serious game based on non-verbal cognitive skills.
Serret, S., Hun, S., Thümmler, S., Pierron, P., Santos, A., Bourgeois, J., & Askenazy, F. (2017). Teaching literacy skills to french minimally verbal school-aged children with autism spectrum disorders with the serious game SEMA-TIC: An exploratory study. Frontiers in Psychology, 8(SEP). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01523