Date of Degree

9-2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Educational Psychology

Advisor

Linnea Ehri

Committee Members

Alpana Bhattacharya

Jay Verkuilen

Donia Fahim

Leslie Craigo

Patricia Brooks

Subject Categories

Curriculum and Instruction | Early Childhood Education | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research

Keywords

high functioning autism, reading comprehension, central coherence, context blindness, reading instruction, executive funtioning

Abstract

Central coherence is the ability to perceive and connect salient information in a context such as a narrative text. Weak central coherence theory describes a detail-focused cognitive style of processing information that overlooks connections. This style of processing is a shortcoming of individuals with autism compared to typically developing individuals (Frith, 2003). A six-session instructional intervention to foster coherence processing and reinforce thinking strategies was administered to first and second graders while a control group received an irrelevant treatment. There were 10 students with high functioning autism in each condition, mean age 7.06 years, 18 males and 2 females. It was expected that remediating this detail-focused style of processing would benefit children’s comprehension of narrative text. Results showed that the intervention group significantly outperformed controls in the quality of their retell of a narrative text (d = 1.15). Also the intervention improved first graders’ use of sequence words to retell a story (d = 1.21). However, other measures of reading comprehension did not show a benefit from the intervention. Findings carry implications for designing reading instruction for this special population.

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