Memory abilities in children with high functioning autism spectrum disorders

Gansle, Mary Ann Thamaravelil
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In the present study, demographic and intellectual performance data previously collected on groups of children with Asperger Syndrome (AS) and high functioning autism (HFA) were analyzed. It was hypothesized that children and adolescents with HFA or AS would exhibit lower scores on measures of visual memory as compared to auditory memory. It was also hypothesized that participants would display lower scores on visual memory tasks that contain a social component as compared to visual memory tasks without a social component. It was also hypothesized that this group would have difficulty with the Memory for Faces task on the NEPSY as compared to other visual tasks. Another hypothesis stated that the Symbolic Memory task on the UNIT may yield lower mean scores when compared to the other visual tasks. Additionally, it was hypothesized that these children and adolescents would demonstrate lower mean scores on tasks involving auditory working memory as compared to auditory memory tasks alone. Instruments used included the NEPSY, the Universal Nonverbal Intelligence Test (UNIT), and the Woodcock Johnson Test of Cognitive Abilities, Third Edition (WJ-III Cog).

Participants included child and adolescent volunteers (47 males and 7 females) ranging in age from 8 years to 17 years with a mean age of 11 years. All participants had a full scale IQ of 85 or above. Repeated measures ANOVAs were performed using diagnosis (HFA, AS) as a between subjects effect on the dependent variables. The results failed to reveal significant differences for diagnosis on any of the dependent measures; therefore, the between subjects factor diagnosis (HFA, AS) was collapsed across groups to create one sample of children with autism for subsequent analyses.

Repeated measures analysis of variance, pairwise multiple comparisons using Fisher's Least Significant Difference (LSD), and correlations were performed to analyze performance of the sample group across the various subtests included in the hypotheses. With regard to hypothesis one, results revealed that children's standardized mean responses on visual memory measures were not significantly different from each other. With respect to hypothesis two, scores on the Symbolic Memory Subtest were not significantly lower than other visual tasks.

Results for hypothesis three indicated the standardized mean scores on auditory measures and visual memory measures were not significantly different from each other. Hypothesis four analysis indicated that the standardized mean scores on the auditory memory measures and auditory working memory measures were not significantly different from each other. Overall, four hypotheses failed to show significance. There was some suggested overlap in skills measured by the various subtests. The implications of these results for the development of effective classroom interventions for use with students with AS or HFA were discussed.

Psychology, Asperger syndrome, Assessment, Autism, Memory, NEPSY, Psychology, UNIT