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Hawthorne Foundation Development Corporation

Getting "Onboard" with Smart Boards in the Classroom


By Ella Rain - Autism Author

Interactive whiteboard autistic classroom software offers many opportunities to develop a variety of skills. Is the program effective and is it a viable option in classrooms?

Applied Behavioral Analysis


Applied behavioral analysis (ABA) is a form of instruction that introduces concepts and tasks systematically. This type of teaching has shown great promise and has helped many students on the autism spectrum make connections, improve communication and reciprocation. The ABA approach uses strategies like discreet trials as teaching tools.


The problem with this type of approach in the classroom setting is that it isolates the autistic child from the rest of the class. There is little opportunity for group learning. Interactive whiteboards seek to help students learn together in a traditional classroom setting. Assistive technology in classroom settings may make up for deficits in ABA and discreet trial.


Assistive Technology


Assistive technology in autism classrooms can be extremely helpful. Approaches run the gamut from low technology to high technology. Low technology involves a little more than physical and verbal prompts as well as visual aids. High technology is more complicated, and it can make a considerable difference in an autistic classroom setting.Interactive whiteboard autistic classroom technology is an example of high technology designed to "train" the students' attention.


Interactive Whiteboard Autistic Classroom Software


Interactive whiteboard autistic classroom software was developed with specific goals in mind. The program is designed to help students with neurological disorders overcome obstacles they face in traditional classroom settings. Children on the spectrum may have difficulty in several areas:

  • Social learning

  • Reciprocal (give-and-take) interactions

  • Communication

  • Following several steps in directions

  • Generalizing mastered skills in all settings


Children normally learn by observing others and they are able to process more than one source of information at a time. Students on the autism spectrum process information differently.

For example, if a teacher points to a car and says "car" a typical student is able to connect the pointing gesture to the spoken word and to the image. An autistic student is likely to process just one of the three modes of input. Chances are, the student processes the picture of the car without connecting it to the spoken word.


ACT Project


The Autism, Communication and Technology (ACT) Project used interactive whiteboards in classrooms containing students with neurological and autistic disorders. The project was conducted in Spaulding Youth Center in Northfield, New Hampshire. According to the article, Whiteboards Engage Autistic Students by Kathleen McClaskey and Randy Welch, the project yielded impressive results.

  • Improved communication - Students used sign language to ask for specific activities and stories.

  • Modeling - Students imitated positive social behaviors in the classroom setting.

  • Reciprocation - Students took turns and engaged in give-and-take interactions.

  • Attention - Students were able to attend to tasks for about 45 minutes, up from 15 to 19 minutes.

  • Generalization - Students used skills they mastered in the classroom in other settings.

  • Behavioral improvements - Decreased aggression, taking social cues from peers and completing activities without tantrums.

In addition to improvements in students, there are improvements in article notes as well. The instructors were motivated by the teaching tools and the students' positive responses to the interactive whiteboard in the autistic classroom setting was extremely encouraging to the instructors. Teachers developed higher expectations for their students.

The article, "Impact of Classroom Design on Interactive Whiteboard Use in a Special Needs Classroom" suggests that the physical organization of the classroom environment is a factor in the whiteboard's effectiveness.




Those interested in learning more about whiteboards in the autistic classroom setting can explore websites that offer interactive activities for students.

  • CBeebies is an interactive website that offers games, songs, stores and art activities.

  • Family Learning is a UK based website that connects parents and caretakers to school curriculum and curriculum-based learning activities.

  • Reading Is Fundamental is a free reading resource that includes a Leading to Reading interactive online program.

  • Starfall offers reading activities and games for kids.


The websites can be used with interactive whiteboards in the classroom setting. The whiteboards may improve motivation, attention and expectations for both students and teachers.

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Eileen Bisordi

Executive Director, HFDC


5 Bradhurst Avenue

Hawthorne, New York 10532

(914) 592-8526 x3101

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