Date Approved

8-20-2010

Date Posted

11-15-2011

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Committee Member

Renee Lajiness-O‟Neill, PhD, Chair

Committee Member

Silvia von Kluge, PhD

Committee Member

Ellen Koch, PhD

Committee Member

Robert Carpenter, PhD

Abstract

The relationship between memory and adaptive functioning was studied in sample of 268 children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD, n = 83), autism spectrum disorder (ASD, n = 62), velo-cardio-facial syndrome (VCFS, n = 21), and low birth weight (LBW, n = 38) and neurotypicals (n = 64). Children with ASD and VCFS demonstrated a relative weakness in facial and visual memory, while no between-group differences were found during the auditory verbal learning task of the TOMAL. Learning curve analyses showed that after the first trial of the visual span test, all groups performed at the same level, but the performance of the clinical samples dropped after each subsequent trials. However, during the delayed recall, no between-group differences were evident. On the word memory test, the groups were significantly different after the first trial, but during delayed recall their performance converged. When memory functioning was used to predict academic achievement, TOMAL scores explained 37% of the variance in math scores, 22% in reading, and 13% in spelling scores. The same models did not predict social skills as measured by the CBCL. When age, gender, and FSIQ were added to memory scores to the regression model, the adjusted R2 value doubled for achievement scores, with IQ clearly driving the age effect. However, IQ was not a significant predictor of social skills. With that criterion, age became the only significant predictor, explaining 39% of the variance. The clinical implications of the findings on diagnostic (nonverbal memory and math seem to be a relative weakness in neurodevelopmental disorders; repeated learning trials may be needed to allow diagnosis-specific deficits to emerge; cognitive variables predict academic, but not social functioning; consolidation could be treated as a separate, emergent variable and normed separately to enhance its diagnostic utility) and treatment (visual cuing may be less effective in ASD and especially VCFS than a verbally mediated one) considerations are discussed.

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