Pamela Colton

Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Special Education

Committee Member

Phil Smith

Committee Member

Gilbert Stiefel


Misconceptions about cognitive development cause damaging assumptions that affect access to academic intervention after middle childhood, especially for older students who also have significant disabilities (Aos, Lieb, Mayfield, Miller, & Pennucci, 2005). In this study, possible sources for reduced expectations for post-middle childhood students are discussed and evaluated. Brigance test scores of seven adult students labeled with severe cognitive impairment are documented at the beginning of a regular school year, and then compared to scores at the end of the school year. Target students received regular school based speech language therapy and occupational therapy, as well as direct academic instruction by a certified special education teacher. Dramatic improvements in all areas were noted. Improvements in most areas were statistically significant despite the small sample size. This study suggests that cognitive improvement among older students should be given greater consideration as an attainable and worthwhile goal for educators and therapists.