Emily Grew: “Attention and learning in children with and without an autism spectrum disorder”

In Students by jvnf65

  • Durham University
  • Psychology
  • e.e.grew@durham.ac.uk

Description:

Understanding how to support children and young people in achieving their full potential at school is a vital part of education. To do this, we must first understand the factors that can influence academic achievement. This topic has been widely researched for typically developing (TD) individuals, with intelligence (Neisser et al., 1996), working memory capacity (Gathercole et al., 2004), and self-discipline (Wolfe & Johnson, 1995), amongst many other factors, being related to academic achievement. Research in this area has, however, been neglected for children with developmental disorders, particularly Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). As we know that outcomes for children with ASD are generally poorer than for TD children, it is arguably even more important that focus is given to improving their potential outcomes.

While research into factors related to academic achievement is already limited, one factor that is largely under-represented in the ASD literature is the role of attention. The ability to focus and sustain attention is crucial for learning and subsequently for academic achievement (e.g., Erickson, Thiessen, Godwin, Dickerson, & Fisher, 2015). Within the literature that considers attention as a predictor of academic achievement, both in typically developing children and children with ASD, the majority focus on measuring attention at the behavioural level (i.e. Does the child listen in class? Are they focused on tasks?), but few consider attention at the cognitive level as an aspect of executive function.

My current research therefore focuses on understanding how a child’s experience in the classroom environment, with a specific focus on attention, may be related to academic achievement, for children with and without an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Individuals with an ASD are known to have unusual visual attention patterns and to experience sensory overload from their environment which may impact upon their ability to learn in the classroom. The aim of this research is To gain a detailed understanding of the relationship between attention and academic achievement for children with and without ASD, using a mixed-methods approach