Can Executive Functions Predict Study Progress Among College Students with Autism?

Oral Presentation
Friday, May 3, 2019: 1:30 PM
Room: 518 (Palais des congres de Montreal)
R. Dijkhuis1, L. M. de Sonneville2, T. Ziermans3, W. G. Staal4 and H. Swaab2, (1)University of Leiden, Leiden, Netherlands, (2)Leiden University, Leiden, Netherlands, (3)University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands, (4)Radboud University Medical Center Nijmegen, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Department of Cognitive Neuroscience, Nijmegen, Netherlands
Background: Many students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) that enter higher education drop out prematurely. Although studies have shown that executive functioning (EF) skills can predict study success in neurotypical individuals, it is unknown whether this is also true for young adult individuals with ASD.

Objectives: To determine whether daily EF and performance-based EF can predict study progress in college students with ASD.

Methods: Fifty-four young adults college students with ASD (Mage = 22.48, SD = 2.43, 72% male) were recruited and followed-up for 6 months to determine their study progress. At baseline the adult self-report version of the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Functioning (BRIEF-A) and computerized subtasks of the Amsterdam Neuropsychological Tasks (ANT) were assessed to measure daily EF and performance-based EF, respectively. The Social Responsiveness Scale for Adults (SRS-A) was included to assess autism symptom severity. After six months the total proportion of collected study credits was calculated. Correlational analyses and regression models were conducted to determine the best predictors of study progress.

Results: The initial results showed that cognitive flexibility, working memory (both ANT), and planning/organizing skills (BRIEF) were significantly correlated with study progress. Subsequent regression analyses indicated that although these EF skills were able to explain a significant amount of variance in study progress, only planning/organizing skills was a significant predictor above and beyond autism symptom severity.

Conclusions: These preliminary findings suggest that mapping daily EF in young adults with ASD in higher education can potentially aid in increasing their odds of a successful academic outcome.