Profiles and Predictors of School Functioning Among Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Oral Presentation
Friday, May 3, 2019: 1:30 PM
Room: 524 (Palais des congres de Montreal)
A. Zaidman-Zait1, P. Mirenda2, P. Szatmari3, I. M. Smith4, J. Volden5, T. Vaillancourt6, C. Waddell7, L. Zwaigenbaum5, T. Bennett8, E. Duku9, S. Georgiades9, W. J. Ungar10 and C. M. Kerns11, (1)Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel, (2)University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada, (3)The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, ON, Canada, (4)Dalhousie University / IWK Health Centre, Halifax, NS, CANADA, (5)University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada, (6)University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada, (7)Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC, Canada, (8)Offord Centre for Child Studies, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, CANADA, (9)McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada, (10)University of Toronto / The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, ON, Canada, (11)Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Background: Children with ASD demonstrate high variability in academic achievement; for many, academic achievement is lower than would be expected based on their IQ (Estes et al. 2011; Jones et al. 2009; Keen et al. 2015; Wei et al. 2013). In addition, children with ASD are less likely to enjoy or cooperate at school compared to typically developing peers (Jahromi et al. 2013), and often experience challenges in social interactions and relationships with classmates. Studies suggest that multiple competencies (both academic and social) work jointly to facilitate or undermine children's adjustment; thus, competencies should be examined by considering functioning across domains. There is limited knowledge regarding early predictors of educational outcomes among children with ASD.

Objectives: This study examined (1) patterns of academic and social school functioning among 10-11 year-old children with ASD; and (2) early behavioral and social communication indicators, measured around age 3, as predictors of children's school functioning profile membership.

Methods: The sample included 178 children from the Canadian Pathways in ASD study. Latent profile analysis (Vermunt & Magidson, 2013) was used to identify and describe profiles of children's school functioning (academic and social outcomes) when children were around 10-11 years old. Academic functioning outcomes included the composite standard score of the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test II (WIAT--II-A; Wechsler, 2001) and teacher reports of academic performance and school engagement (Teacher Report Form, Achenbach, 1991). Social functioning included parents’ and teachers’ report on adaptive socialization skills (VABS-II; Sparrow et al., 2005) and both pragmatic competence and children’s social relations (CCC-2; Bishop, 1998). Early behavioral and social communication indicators at age 3 were examined as predictors of profile membership approximately 6 years later. Early predictors included autism severity (ADOS; Lord et al. 2000), behavior problems (Aberrant Behavior Checklist; Aman et al., 1985), imitation ability (Multidimensional Imitation Assessment; Lowe-Pearce & Smith, 2005), and initiating and responding to joint attention (Early Social Communication Scales; Mundy et al., 2007).

Results: A four-profile model of children's school functioning showed the best fit and was also the most parsimonious (Figure 1). Profile 1 (30%) was characterized by the highest scores on school functioning across both academic and social outcomes. Profile 2 (24%) had low outcomes on academic achievement and performance, with school engagement and social outcomes that were in the average range for the Pathways sample in this analysis. Profile 3 (21%) displayed above average academic achievement and performance, with social outcomes (i.e., pragmatic skills and social relations) that were relatively low. Finally, Profile 4 (24%) had the lowest level of school functioning across both academic and social outcomes. Three early behavioral and social communication indicators measured around age 3 significantly predicted profile membership; these included behavior problems (Wald = 15.07, p < .01), imitation (Wald=34.02, p < .001); and responding to joint attention (Wald = 25.13, p <.001).

Conclusions: School functioning is complex and variable in elementary-aged children with ASD. Professionals providing early intervention should focus on enhancing early social communication skills that may help to enhance future school functioning.

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See more of: Education