Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Educational Psychology


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


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


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.