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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

Mean visual search response times. Results shown are for the below-5 RCPM autistic subgroup (N = 9), the 5-90 RCPM autistic subgroup (N = 17), and typical control group (N = 27), for each condition (5, 15, and 25 distracters; feature and conjunctive) and the total for all trials. Asterisk represents P < 0.01.
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Fig4: Mean visual search response times. Results shown are for the below-5 RCPM autistic subgroup (N = 9), the 5-90 RCPM autistic subgroup (N = 17), and typical control group (N = 27), for each condition (5, 15, and 25 distracters; feature and conjunctive) and the total for all trials. Asterisk represents P < 0.01.

Mentions: The autistic group was then separated in subgroups: those who scored between the 5th and 90th percentile on RCPM (the ‘5-90 RCPM’ subgroup, N = 17), and those who scored below the 5th percentile on RCPM (the ‘below-5 RCPM’ subgroup, N = 9). Both autistic subgroups were then compared to the nonautistic group. An ANOVA revealed that the groups significantly differed from one another on the visual search time (F (2, 49) = 13.17, P < 0.001). The effect size was large: ηp2 = 0.35. Post hoc comparisons using the Tukey honest significant difference (HSD) indicated that the 5-90 RCPM autistic subgroup (M = 2.14 seconds; SD = 0.90) and nonautistic children (M = 1.49 seconds; SD = 0.52) were significantly faster than the below-5 RCPM autistic subgroup (M = 3.31 seconds; SD = 1.67). More importantly, visual search performance of the 5-90 RCPM autistic subgroup did not differ significantly from that of the nonautistic children (P = 0.07) (see Figure 4).Figure 4


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)

Mean visual search response times. Results shown are for the below-5 RCPM autistic subgroup (N = 9), the 5-90 RCPM autistic subgroup (N = 17), and typical control group (N = 27), for each condition (5, 15, and 25 distracters; feature and conjunctive) and the total for all trials. Asterisk represents P < 0.01.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4359559&req=5

Fig4: Mean visual search response times. Results shown are for the below-5 RCPM autistic subgroup (N = 9), the 5-90 RCPM autistic subgroup (N = 17), and typical control group (N = 27), for each condition (5, 15, and 25 distracters; feature and conjunctive) and the total for all trials. Asterisk represents P < 0.01.
Mentions: The autistic group was then separated in subgroups: those who scored between the 5th and 90th percentile on RCPM (the ‘5-90 RCPM’ subgroup, N = 17), and those who scored below the 5th percentile on RCPM (the ‘below-5 RCPM’ subgroup, N = 9). Both autistic subgroups were then compared to the nonautistic group. An ANOVA revealed that the groups significantly differed from one another on the visual search time (F (2, 49) = 13.17, P < 0.001). The effect size was large: ηp2 = 0.35. Post hoc comparisons using the Tukey honest significant difference (HSD) indicated that the 5-90 RCPM autistic subgroup (M = 2.14 seconds; SD = 0.90) and nonautistic children (M = 1.49 seconds; SD = 0.52) were significantly faster than the below-5 RCPM autistic subgroup (M = 3.31 seconds; SD = 1.67). More importantly, visual search performance of the 5-90 RCPM autistic subgroup did not differ significantly from that of the nonautistic children (P = 0.07) (see Figure 4).Figure 4

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