Evaluating working memory deficits on writing in youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)




May-Poole, Sarah

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Few studies have researched writing difficulties in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and the factors responsible for such difficulties. The current study sought to examine writing difficulties in individuals with ASD and the contribution of working memory (WM) difficulties. The investigation consisted of five youth formally diagnosed with ASD (under DSM-IV-TR, higher functioning Autistic Disorder or Asperger’s Disorder), and five youth with no formal diagnosis. Participants completed a counterbalanced battery of tests that assessed their written expression and WM abilities. Due to challenges in recruiting enough participants for purposes of quantitative research, the study mainly used a case-study analysis. The study showed that participants with ASD (group with ASD) had more difficulty with writing and WM tasks than participates without ASD (traditionally developing [TD] group). Nonparametric analyses revealed that writing and WM were not related; however, these findings are cautionary due to very low participation numbers in the investigation. Case-study analysis showed that the group with ASD had underdeveloped writing skills notably in the areas of word count, vocabulary, spelling and grammar. Regarding WM abilities, the group with ASD showed variable patterns of difficulty; some had strengths in verbal WM while others did not. Unfortunately, the study could not determine if writing difficulties were specific due to WM or other causes, although it does provide useful information for further investigation. Additional studies investigating the relationship between writing and WM, particularly in individuals with ASD, are encouraged.



Autism, working memory, writing, executive function