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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 a trial in the CEFT. The target figure given to the child is on the left.
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Fig2: Example of a trial in the CEFT. The target figure given to the child is on the left.

Mentions: The Children’s Embedded Figure Test (CEFT; [35]) consists of finding a target figure ‘hidden’ by its embedding in a larger meaningful pattern. There are 14 practice trials and 25 test trials (see Figure 2). The target was first given to the child and then the display was placed in front of him. A gesture toward the correct answer was used as a prompt in the practice trials when necessary. The number of targets found and the time to the correct placement of the cardboard figure on the target were manually recorded. The instruction not to turn the target figure, which is normally given to the child prior to administration, was removed for all participants. This decision was made because the autistic children could not understand this instruction. Indeed, many of the autistic children strategically turned the target in order to find it hiding within the larger pattern, showing spontaneous understanding of the disembedding task demand.Figure 2


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 a trial in the CEFT. 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

Fig2: Example of a trial in the CEFT. The target figure given to the child is on the left.
Mentions: The Children’s Embedded Figure Test (CEFT; [35]) consists of finding a target figure ‘hidden’ by its embedding in a larger meaningful pattern. There are 14 practice trials and 25 test trials (see Figure 2). The target was first given to the child and then the display was placed in front of him. A gesture toward the correct answer was used as a prompt in the practice trials when necessary. The number of targets found and the time to the correct placement of the cardboard figure on the target were manually recorded. The instruction not to turn the target figure, which is normally given to the child prior to administration, was removed for all participants. This decision was made because the autistic children could not understand this instruction. Indeed, many of the autistic children strategically turned the target in order to find it hiding within the larger pattern, showing spontaneous understanding of the disembedding task demand.Figure 2

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