Date of Award

6-16-2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ded)

Department

Educational and School Psychology

First Advisor

Lynanne Black, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

William F. Barker, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Joseph F. Kovaleski, D.Ed.

Fourth Advisor

Gurmal Rattan, Ph.D.

Abstract

Every day, school professionals encounter the need for research-based assessment and intervention practices which target executive function profiles in preschool children with developmental delays. While current research focuses on describing characteristics of autistic tendencies during early childhood years, very few studies exist that compare preschool children’s executive function profiles based on rating scales with performance-based assessment. The purpose of this study was to compare specific neurocognitive profiles of preschool-aged children with autism based on their performance on the NEPSY-II and on the teachers’ ratings on the BRIEF-P. Additionally, this study used a quantitative design to explore whether age of symptoms onset, age of enrollment in Early Intervention services, and intensity of therapy services provided can differentiate learning profiles, particularly executive functions of preschool children with autism spectrum disorders. The sample of the study was composed of 12 preschool students ranging from 3 to 5 years of age. The sample’s educational placement was an out-of-district placement. The sample was one of convenience. A number of conclusions were obtained pertaining to age of symptoms onset and support services provided by EI before the child’s third birthday. An early age of symptoms onset was considered to predict eligibility for occupational therapy services. Also, EI services were found to be associated with lower performance on the Attention and Executive Functioning domain. Results from the interaction between Attention and Executive Functioning domain, Inhibit Self Control Index, and General Executive Composite, and the comparison between Social Perception domain and Flexibility Index, did not reveal significant differences when compared with profiles from the NEPSY: A Developmental Neuropsychological Assessment-2nd Edition (NEPSY-II; Korkman, Kirk, & Kemp, 2007), and the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Functioning-Preschool Version (BRIEF-P; Gioia, Espy, & Isquith, 2003). The results drawn from the comparison between Memory and Learning, Emergent Metacognitive, and General Executive Composite ratings showed significantly different profiles. Lastly, this study offered recommendations for future research on executive functioning in preschool children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).

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