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Factors affecting executive function in children with autism spectrum disorder Siroski, Shelby Lynn

Abstract

In typically developing children, better performance on tasks of executive function (EF) is associated with bilingualism as well as participation in activities that engage EF, such as playing video games, attending music lessons, and getting regular exercise. Furthermore, activities found to improve EF abilities tend to be most effective in participants with lower EF at baseline. Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often have deficits in EF. With the prevalence of ASD on the rise, research on the factors contributing to EF development in children with ASD is crucial for the advancement of evidence-based practice for professionals working with these children. This study aims to address whether children with ASD experience EF benefits from dual language exposure and participation in EF supporting activities. This study’s sample was comprised of ten children with ASD, aged six to ten years. Participants were divided into groups based on whether they were primarily exposed to one or two languages, and based on whether they played video games, attended music lessons, or engaged in fitness activities. Each participant was tested on two tasks of inhibition (Simon and flanker tasks) and two tasks of visuospatial working memory (forward- and backward span). Language exposure group differences were found, but not in conditions that target EF abilities. The only group difference specific to conditions with EF involvement was in favour of children who engage in regular physical fitness. While these results do not support dual language exposure, video game playing or musicianship as EF supporting experiences, the results of this study are limited by the small sample size. In addition to group comparisons, data from three participants is discussed within the context of development of EF in children with ASD.

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