Investigating the design, development, and evaluation of a high-tech Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) application for communication needs of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Thesis Type: Doctorate

Institution Of The Thesis: Orta Doğu Teknik Üniversitesi, Graduate School of Natural and Applied Sciences, Graduate School of Natural and Applied Sciences, Turkey

Approval Date: 2018

Student: Hamza Polat

Principal Supervisor (For Co-Supervisor Theses): ÖMER DELİALİOĞLU


Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a type of neurodevelopmental disorder that has two core symptoms; (i) absence of social communication and interaction, and (ii) presence of atypical behaviors. To deal with these symptoms, different treatment approaches such as Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) are used for teaching communication skills to individuals with ASD. With the advancements in mobile technologies, practitioners in special education started to use high-tech aided AAC systems for communication treatments. A variety of high-tech AAC systems were investigated in the special education literature. However, limited number of studies focused on the design requirements of AAC systems from the instructional material design perspective. In this regard, the purpose of this study is to investigate the design, development, and evaluation of a high-tech AAC application for communication needs of individuals with ASD. A design based research framework including multiple research methods was employed in the present study. Two types of data were collected throughout the process related to (i) the design specifications of AAC applications and (ii) the effectiveness of an AAC application on functional communication, which was designed depending on these specifications. In order to reveal the design specifications of the AAC applications, a focus group study, and two expert reviews were conducted with special education teachers and academicians in the field. Results indicated several design specifications referring to the functionality, flexibility, usability and appealing of the mobile application. Based on these design specifications, an AAC application named EBA which stands for the Turkish expression “Engelleri Birlikte Aşalım”(Lets Overcome the Obstacles Together) was developed after three iteration process. The EBA was applied with the instructional strategies of Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) protocols to three children with ASD in the evaluation phase. The findings indicated that the EBA is an effective high-tech AAC application in facilitating functional communication and requesting skills of individuals with ASD.