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Autistic children at risk of being underestimated: school-based pilot study of a strength-informed assessment.

Courchesne V, Meilleur AA, Poulin-Lord MP, Dawson M, Soulières I - Mol Autism (2015)

Bottom Line: Autistic performance on RCPM, CEFT, and visual search were correlated.These results indicate that 'minimally verbal' or 'nonverbal' school-aged autistic children may be at risk of being underestimated: they may be wrongly regarded as having little cognitive potential.Our findings support the usefulness of strength-informed approaches to autism and have important implications for the assessment and education of autistic children.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Rivière-des-prairies Hospital, Centre d'Excellence en Troubles Envahissants du Développement de l'Université de Montréal (CETEDUM), 7070 boulevard Perras, Montréal, QC H1E 1A4 Canada.

ABSTRACT

Background: An important minority of school-aged autistic children, often characterized as 'nonverbal' or 'minimally verbal,' displays little or no spoken language. These children are at risk of being judged 'low-functioning' or 'untestable' via conventional cognitive testing practices. One neglected avenue for assessing autistic children so situated is to engage current knowledge of autistic cognitive strengths. Our aim was thus to pilot a strength-informed assessment of autistic children whose poor performance on conventional instruments suggests their cognitive potential is very limited.

Methods: Thirty autistic children (6 to 12 years) with little or no spoken language, attending specialized schools for autistic children with the highest levels of impairment, were assessed using Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-IV), Raven's Colored Progressive Matrices board form (RCPM), Children's Embedded Figures Test (CEFT), and a visual search task. An age-matched control group of 27 typical children was also assessed.

Results: None of the autistic children could complete WISC-IV; only six completed any subtest. In contrast, 26 autistic children could complete RCPM, with 17 scoring between the 5th and 90th percentile. Twenty-seven autistic children completed the visual search task, while 26 completed CEFT, on which autistic children were faster than RCPM-matched typical children. Autistic performance on RCPM, CEFT, and visual search were correlated.

Conclusion: These results indicate that 'minimally verbal' or 'nonverbal' school-aged autistic children may be at risk of being underestimated: they may be wrongly regarded as having little cognitive potential. Our findings support the usefulness of strength-informed approaches to autism and have important implications for the assessment and education of autistic children.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus

Example of visual search test trial. Conjunctive search with 25 distracters; the target figure given to the child is on the left.
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Fig1: Example of visual search test trial. Conjunctive search with 25 distracters; the target figure given to the child is on the left.

Mentions: In visual search tasks, a predetermined target must be found within a field of distracters. The test used here was an adapted cardboard form of the computerized version in O’Riordan, Plaisted, Driver, and Baron-Cohen [34]. Three different letters were successively used as targets in three set sizes (5, 15, or 25 distracters). In the feature condition, the target letter had nothing in common with the distracters (different color and shape). In the conjunction condition, the target shared one feature with each of the distracters (either shape or color). There were six trials for each set size (5, 15, or 25 distracters) and condition (feature or conjunction) for a total of 36 trials presented in random order. The target and distracters were created in Calibri font size 115 (approximately 1.8 × 2.7 cm). Targets were printed on a 3 × 2.4 cm cardboard and distracters were presented on a 28 × 21.5 cm plasticized sheet (see Figure 1).Figure 1


Autistic children at risk of being underestimated: school-based pilot study of a strength-informed assessment.

Courchesne V, Meilleur AA, Poulin-Lord MP, Dawson M, Soulières I - Mol Autism (2015)

Example of visual search test trial. Conjunctive search with 25 distracters; the target figure given to the child is on the left.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License 1 - License 2
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4359559&req=5

Fig1: Example of visual search test trial. Conjunctive search with 25 distracters; the target figure given to the child is on the left.
Mentions: In visual search tasks, a predetermined target must be found within a field of distracters. The test used here was an adapted cardboard form of the computerized version in O’Riordan, Plaisted, Driver, and Baron-Cohen [34]. Three different letters were successively used as targets in three set sizes (5, 15, or 25 distracters). In the feature condition, the target letter had nothing in common with the distracters (different color and shape). In the conjunction condition, the target shared one feature with each of the distracters (either shape or color). There were six trials for each set size (5, 15, or 25 distracters) and condition (feature or conjunction) for a total of 36 trials presented in random order. The target and distracters were created in Calibri font size 115 (approximately 1.8 × 2.7 cm). Targets were printed on a 3 × 2.4 cm cardboard and distracters were presented on a 28 × 21.5 cm plasticized sheet (see Figure 1).Figure 1

Bottom Line: Autistic performance on RCPM, CEFT, and visual search were correlated.These results indicate that 'minimally verbal' or 'nonverbal' school-aged autistic children may be at risk of being underestimated: they may be wrongly regarded as having little cognitive potential.Our findings support the usefulness of strength-informed approaches to autism and have important implications for the assessment and education of autistic children.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Rivière-des-prairies Hospital, Centre d'Excellence en Troubles Envahissants du Développement de l'Université de Montréal (CETEDUM), 7070 boulevard Perras, Montréal, QC H1E 1A4 Canada.

ABSTRACT

Background: An important minority of school-aged autistic children, often characterized as 'nonverbal' or 'minimally verbal,' displays little or no spoken language. These children are at risk of being judged 'low-functioning' or 'untestable' via conventional cognitive testing practices. One neglected avenue for assessing autistic children so situated is to engage current knowledge of autistic cognitive strengths. Our aim was thus to pilot a strength-informed assessment of autistic children whose poor performance on conventional instruments suggests their cognitive potential is very limited.

Methods: Thirty autistic children (6 to 12 years) with little or no spoken language, attending specialized schools for autistic children with the highest levels of impairment, were assessed using Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-IV), Raven's Colored Progressive Matrices board form (RCPM), Children's Embedded Figures Test (CEFT), and a visual search task. An age-matched control group of 27 typical children was also assessed.

Results: None of the autistic children could complete WISC-IV; only six completed any subtest. In contrast, 26 autistic children could complete RCPM, with 17 scoring between the 5th and 90th percentile. Twenty-seven autistic children completed the visual search task, while 26 completed CEFT, on which autistic children were faster than RCPM-matched typical children. Autistic performance on RCPM, CEFT, and visual search were correlated.

Conclusion: These results indicate that 'minimally verbal' or 'nonverbal' school-aged autistic children may be at risk of being underestimated: they may be wrongly regarded as having little cognitive potential. Our findings support the usefulness of strength-informed approaches to autism and have important implications for the assessment and education of autistic children.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus