Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

David F. Cihak

Committee Members

Sherry M. Bell, Marion Coleman-Lopatic, Gary J. Skolits


Nationwide there are approximately 200 postsecondary education programs that provide inclusive college experiences for young adults with intellectual disabilities (ID) (Grigal & Hart, 2010). To navigate college campuses, the greater surrounding community, and ultimately competitive employment, young adults with ID need literacy, communication, and navigation skills. The purpose of these two studies was to investigate the effects of mobile technology to improve the autonomy of students with ID enrolled in a postsecondary education program. The purpose of experiment I was to examine the effectiveness of three different communication applications (i.e., text, audio, and video) to send and receive text messages (i.e., iMessage, Heytell, and Tango) for college-aged students with ID. Four students enrolled in a PSE program at a large university in the Southeastern United States participated in experiment I. An alternating treatments design was used to examine if there were differences in the acquisition and communicative understanding of each application. The results indicated that each participant learned how to send and receive text messages using multiple applications. Furthermore, all students improved the quality of communication including grammar and mechanics, relevance and comprehension, and professionalism.

Experiment II examined the effectiveness of a navigation application for three college-aged students with ID also enrolled in a PSE program. Using a withdrawal/reversal ABAB design, students used the Apple iPhone and the Heads Up Navigator application to navigate to novel locations independently. First, students were given a copy of the university map during the baseline phase to walk to an unfamiliar location on campus. During the mobile application phase, students were taught how to operate and use a mobile device and navigation application (i.e., Heads Up Navigator) to navigate to unfamiliar places. Results from Experiment II indicated all students improved navigation skills with 100% nonoverlapping data which indicated a highly effective intervention. Visual analysis procedures were used to evaluate the intervention effects of both studies. Findings from the studies include implications for PSE and adult participants, the viability of mobile technology as an effective tool, and using digital tools to teach leisure and work skills. Recommendations for future research and practice are discussed.

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