Factors Affecting Computer Mouse Use for Young Children: Implications for AAC
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More than 12% of preschoolers receiving special education services have complex communication needs, including increasing numbers of children who do not have significant motor impairments (e.g., children with autism spectrum disorders, Down syndrome, etc.). In order to meet their diverse communication needs (e.g., face-to-face, written, Internet, telecommunication), these children may use mainstream technologies accessed via the mouse, yet little is known about factors that affect the mouse performance of young children. This study used a mixed factorial design to investigate the effects of age, target size, and angle of approach on accuracy and time required for accurate target selection with a mouse for 20 3-year-old and 20 4-year-old children. The 4-year-olds were generally more accurate and faster than the 3-year-olds. Target size and angle mediated differences in performance within age groups. The 3-year-olds were more accurate and faster in selecting the medium and large targets relative to the small target, were faster in selecting the large relative to the medium target, and were faster in selecting targets along the vertical relative to the diagonal angle. The 4-year-olds were faster in selecting the medium and large targets relative to the small target. Implications for improving access to AAC include the preliminary suggestion of age-related threshold target sizes that support sufficient accuracy, the possibility of efficiency benefits when target size is increased up to an age-related threshold, and identification of the potential utility of the vertical angle as a context for training navigational input device use.
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