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Noise-Cancelling Headphones as an Intervention to Maintain Classroom Time Spent On-Task for Students With Autism Spectrum Disorder
AuthorNehrkorn, Alicia Abigail
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A single-subject research design was utilized to study the effects of noise-cancelling headphones on students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the classroom. Academic success has long been linked to students’ time spent on-task in the classroom. Interventions to maintain time spent on-task have been studied and researched but many, currently employed, are not considered to be evidence-based practices (EBP). This is due to the rigorous criteria an EBP requires. Aversion and avoidance to sensory stimuli has long been studied as a common symptom for children with ASD; auditory sensory overload is one of these hypersensitivities affecting children of this population. The inability to habituate to novel classroom noises, for students with ASD, may facilitate inattention and lack of academic success. Compulsory education and the federal mandate to educate children in his/her least restrictive environment often places students, of all abilities, in a general education classroom, for partial or a full school day. Educators, therefore, are responsible for implementing all accommodations and modifications, inclusive of students with ASD. The specific accommodations and modifications are delineated by the students’ individualized education plan, including accommodations to maintain time spent on-task. This study explored the effectiveness of classroom use of noise-cancelling headphones utilizing a nonconcurrent multiple baseline design across participants and curricula to visually analyze the functional relationship between noise- cancelling headphones and time spent on-task. This was implemented to answer the following research questions: (1) does the use of noise-cancelling headphones increase time spent on-task for students with ASD, measured by time spent in active listening, active engagement during independent reading tasks; (2) does the use of noise-cancelling headphones increase time spent on-task for students with ASD, measured by time spent in active listening, active engagement during independent math tasks; (3) do the participants view the usage of the noise-cancelling headphones as socially valid and effective; finally (4) do the participants’ teachers view the usage of the noise-cancelling headphones as socially valid and effective? Behaviorism theory was the foundation for this study; simply stated, a behavior will increase (on-task behavior) with removal, or prevention, of an aversive stimulus (auditory input). This is completely dependent on behavioral function, specifically, escape or avoidance of certain auditory input. Increased behavior as a result of removal of an aversive stimulus is also known as negative reinforcement. Therefore, it was hypothesized that with use of noise-cancelling headphones, ambient noise would be removed from the students’ environments and time spent on-task in math and reading would increase. It was also hypothesized that all the participants and the participants’ teachers would find the intervention socially valid and effective. If the teachers view the intervention as easily implemented and effective, the practitioner becomes the researcher. If the participants view the intervention as beneficial, increasing classroom time spent on-task may result in increased academic success. Visual analyses of level, trend, and variability were used to interpret data through graphing momentary time sampling data in baseline and intervention phases. Reliability would have been established through inter-observer agreement (IOA), however, due to COVID-19, IOA was not collected and the data presented are hypothetical. Results from the visual analyses demonstrate a positive functional relationship between increased time spent on-task and noise-cancelling headphone use.Additionally, this study would have employed a social validity survey to answer research questions three and four.