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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

CEFT mean score. Number of correct responses for the below-5 RCPM autistic subgroup (N = 9), the 5-90 RCPM autistic subgroup (N = 17), and controls (N = 27). Asterisk represents P < 0.01.
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Fig5: CEFT mean score. Number of correct responses for the below-5 RCPM autistic subgroup (N = 9), the 5-90 RCPM autistic subgroup (N = 17), and controls (N = 27). Asterisk represents P < 0.01.

Mentions: Twenty-six of 30 autistic children were able to perform the CEFT. At the group level, autistic children found fewer hidden figures (M = 15.35; SD = 3.99) than nonautistic children (M = 18.19; SD = 4.15) (t (50) = 2.52, P < 0.05). When considering the two autistic subgroups divided according to their RCPM performance (5-90 RCPM, N = 17; below-5 RCPM, N = 9; see above), an ANOVA revealed that the groups significantly differed from one another on the CEFT score (F (2, 48) = 6.55, P < 0.01) with a large effect size (ηp2 = 0.21). The Tukey HSD post hoc comparisons indicated that performances of nonautistic children (M = 18.19; SD = 4.15) and the 5-90 RCPM autistic subgroup (M = 16.76; SD = 3.38) did not differ significantly (P = 0.47), and both groups were significantly better than the below-5 RCPM autistic subgroup (M = 12.50; SD = 4.03) (see Figure 5).Figure 5


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)

CEFT mean score. Number of correct responses for the below-5 RCPM autistic subgroup (N = 9), the 5-90 RCPM autistic subgroup (N = 17), and controls (N = 27). Asterisk represents P < 0.01.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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

Fig5: CEFT mean score. Number of correct responses for the below-5 RCPM autistic subgroup (N = 9), the 5-90 RCPM autistic subgroup (N = 17), and controls (N = 27). Asterisk represents P < 0.01.
Mentions: Twenty-six of 30 autistic children were able to perform the CEFT. At the group level, autistic children found fewer hidden figures (M = 15.35; SD = 3.99) than nonautistic children (M = 18.19; SD = 4.15) (t (50) = 2.52, P < 0.05). When considering the two autistic subgroups divided according to their RCPM performance (5-90 RCPM, N = 17; below-5 RCPM, N = 9; see above), an ANOVA revealed that the groups significantly differed from one another on the CEFT score (F (2, 48) = 6.55, P < 0.01) with a large effect size (ηp2 = 0.21). The Tukey HSD post hoc comparisons indicated that performances of nonautistic children (M = 18.19; SD = 4.15) and the 5-90 RCPM autistic subgroup (M = 16.76; SD = 3.38) did not differ significantly (P = 0.47), and both groups were significantly better than the below-5 RCPM autistic subgroup (M = 12.50; SD = 4.03) (see Figure 5).Figure 5

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