SketchUp™: A Technology Tool to Facilitate Intergenerational Family Relationships for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

Authors


  • Author’s Note: Cheryl Wright is an Associate Professor in Family & Consumer Studies at University of Utah. Marissa L. Diener is an Associate Professor in Family & Consumer Studies at University of Utah. Louise Dunn is an Assistant Professor, Occupational Therapy at University of Utah. Scott D. Wright is an Associate Professor, Gerontology Interdisciplinary Program at University of Utah. Laura Linnell is a Graduate Student in Family & Consumer Studies at University of Utah. Katherine Newbold is a Graduate Student in Family & Consumer Studies at University of Utah. Valerie D’Astous is a Graduate Student in Family & Consumer Studies at University of Utah. Deborah Rafferty is an Undergraduate Student in Department of Communication at University of Utah. Please address correspondence to Cheryl Wright, FCS Department, University of Utah, 225 South 1400 East, Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0080; e-mail: cheryl.wright@fcs.utah.edu.Acknowledgements: We would like to acknowledge the amazing children and families who participated in this program and in particular one of our parents, Lynn Frick-Dolan who helped to coordinate the parents and the schools. We also need to give special appreciation to Steve Gross, our SketchUp expert and designer, who is a wonderful role model of “late blooming”. He captivated the children, families and research team with his creativity, talent, gentle nature, and patience. We would like to thank Vick Rathunde for her guidance with the children. And to Tom Wyman, Chris Cronin, and Barry Janzen from Google who are inspiring our project with their support and who are original founders of Project Spectrum. This research was partially funded through the University of Utah Interdisciplinary Research Program.

Abstract

This study used a qualitative design to examine intergenerational relationships facilitated by an intervention employing Google SketchUp™, a freeware 3D design program. Seven high-functioning boys (ages 8–17) with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) participated in computer workshops. The investigators capitalized on the boys’ strengths in visual–spatial skills. The interdisciplinary team structured the workshops to facilitate computer skill development as well as social interaction. Qualitative analysis involved thematic analysis of transcripts from focus groups with parents and grandparents. The two key themes that emerged were as follows: (i) reframing expectations (parental efficacy and creating a safe environment) and (ii) building intergenerational bridges among parents, children, siblings, and grandparents. These findings indicate that technology can build on the strengths of children with ASD and promote social engagement of the children with their families.

Ancillary