Steffani Tuttle EDU 744

Literature Review

April 21, 2012

Literature Review Asperger’s syndrome and literacy development Steffani Tuttle EDU 744 April 21, 2012

Steffani Tuttle EDU 744

Literature Review

April 21, 2012

“Asperger’s Syndrome, a neurobiological disorder on the Autism spectrum, is one of the fastest growing disabilities, according to Brenda Smith Myles, Ph.D., Chief Program Officer for the Autism Society of America. ‘Right now, the prevalence is 1 in 150 children.’ Smith Myles says (Weinstein, 2012). Students on the Autism spectrum have several common deficiencies in the area of literacy comprehension and along with these have strengths that can be used to assist in their literacy development. With these growing numbers, the importance for teachers to know the best ways to reach these children by using these strengths and helping them to overcome their deficiencies in the classroom is also growing. Students with Asperger’s tend to struggle with inferring information from text. Researchers have come to the conclusion that this weakness has to do with functioning in the right hemisphere of the brain. Students with Asperger’s also tend to focus on one topic that they are interested in and not necessarily what is being taught currently in the classroom. This affects their literacy growth in several ways. Myles also state that “the majority of our kids are diagnosed between the ages of 9 and 11.” This means that by the time they are diagnosed, they are already behind in areas that are crucial to literacy development. Students with high-functioning autism or Asperger’s syndrome often have trouble comprehending humorous materials because of their deficits in metalinguistic skills. Emerich, et al. (2003) compared eight students ages 11-17 that were diagnosed with autism to 8 students without any language or cognitive disabilities. Ten sets of cartoons with captions and ten short story jokes were presented to both groups of students. They were given five ending

Steffani Tuttle EDU 744

Literature Review

April 21, 2012

choices for each cartoon or joke that ranged from a correct funny ending to one that was a “neutral non sequitur ending” that was on an unrelated topic. The students were first given practice items and were provided feedback on their choices, and they were tested in individual sessions. “This study found that the comprehension of humorous materials (cartoons and jokes) by the adolescents with autism was significantly poorer than that of their peers who are developing typically. (Emerich, et al, 2003) The autistic students did not do as poorly on the cartoon task as they did on the joke task. The researchers concluded the reason for this was that the joke task was more abstract than the cartoon task. Even though the group size was small, students with high-functioning autism and Asperger’s syndrome were found to struggle with understanding abstract jokes and picking the correct endings to have the joke make sense. Another study by Cui, et al, 2010, also used a small group of children, ages 6 to 8 yearsold with Asperger’s syndrome to explore their working memory function. The control group was 29 healthy children from public schools with an average age of 7.37 years. The researchers used six different working memory tasks to gather their data. The first was digit recall which presented spoken sequences of digits and the students repeated them back in correct order. Second was word recall. Similar to digit recall the students were given spoken words at a rate of one per second and were asked to repeat them back in correct order. The lists got longer until the subject could not repeat them back correctly. Next the subjects were given spoken sequences of numbers that they were to repeat back in reverse order. After this the tests switched to visual recall using arrays of dots that the subjects were required to count and then recall how many dots there were and in what order. Following this test was a test for block recall in which the subjects had to tap on wooden blocks in the same order that the researcher

Steffani Tuttle EDU 744

Literature Review

April 21, 2012

did just prior. This went on until they were not successful at repeating the tapping order correctly. A variant-visual-pattern’s test was given next. This involved grids that were gray circles with varying numbers of each. The subjects were given 10 seconds to look at the pattern and then repeat it by filling in their own grid. Finally N-back tasks for working memory were presented to the subjects that involved them deciding if a digit, shape, or location presented matched the one before or two back shown previously. All of these working memory tests were given in a hospital for the autistic students and in public school for the control group. The students with Asperger’s did not perform as well as the control group on the block task, suggesting that they “might be impaired in visual-spatial perceptions and visual motor integration” but in the digit and word recall task, the AS group performed better than the control group of healthy children. They also did not perform as well on the variant-visualpattern tasks. On the n-back task the AS group performed as well as the control group, but they took longer to complete the tasks. The results from this study prove what the researcher had hypothesized, that children with Asperger’s syndrome have good working rote memory, but that they struggle with visual-spatial short term memory tasks. The last article reviewed is a case study of an 11-year-old boy with Asperger’s syndrome written by Sarah Worth and Sophia Reynolds called “The assessment and identification of language impairment in Asperger’s syndrome”. The student, Tom, was first seen by a team at a center for autism when he was 6-years-old. He was being served in special needs, despite being described by his teachers as bright because of deficiencies in literacy. During classroom observations, it was noted that instead of participating in group work, he would wander around the classroom to see what the other students were doing. He also had problems sequencing

Steffani Tuttle EDU 744

Literature Review

April 21, 2012

events and making predictions. During a literacy lesson, Tom tended to concentrate on minor details, display rigid thinking, and struggled with inferring implied information, but his vocabulary was extensive. When given the ACE (Assessment of Comprehension and Expression), Tom found it difficult making judgments about similar meaning words, opposite meaning words, and sound similarities. His teacher reported the same difficulties in his spoken and written work. This case study showed that “despite some common assumptions the language skills of pupils with Asperger’s syndrome are largely adequate for their learning and social needs, carefully targeted and detailed assessment frequently reveals subtle difficulties that may compromise their progress “(Worth & Reynolds, 2008). All three of the articles show that even though students with Asperger’s have the basic literacy tools to be successful, there are areas of weakness that can impede their progress and be compounded as they go from grade level to grade level. Emerich, et al. (2003) used jokes and cartoons to show that Asperger’s students struggle with comprehending abstract concepts, while Cuit et al.( used six different tasks to show that they have deficits when it comes to visualspatial short term memory tasks. The case study involving Tom discovered the fact that he had trouble making inferences from text. Since students with Asperger’s are usually diagnosed at a later age, these seemingly minor deficits affect literacy development more because of the lack of support given to these students in their early years. Both the Cuit study and the case study on Tom, showed strengths that can be built upon in Asperger’s students. The Cuit study proved that the students had good working memory, and Tom was shown to have a strong vocabulary for his age and grade level. When teaching

Steffani Tuttle EDU 744

Literature Review

April 21, 2012

students with Asperger’s syndrome, these areas of strengths need to be taken into consideration when planning interventions and modifications for these students. All three studies used small groups of Asperger’s students. The Emerich et al. study used only eight students, the Cuit study used just twelve students for the study groups, and of course the case study on Tom was just one subject. Their findings would carry more weight if they would have used larger groups. Those teachers who have had students with Asperger’s can attest to their tendencies to take literature and conversations literally and to struggle with inferential comprehension and abstract ideas. These three articles reiterate what they already know, that no matter what their strengths are in literacy development, there are areas of weakness that cannot be overlooked on a daily basis in the classroom. When searching for articles for this literature review, there was an abundance of studies on the behavior, the speculated causes of Asperger’s syndrome, and dealing with adult autism, but very few articles on Asperger’s effects on literacy development. As the rate of autism and Asperger’s continues to grow here and across the globe, I would assume that there will be more call from teachers and school systems for methods and interventions for dealing with these students and their deficits.

Steffani Tuttle EDU 744

Literature Review

April 21, 2012

References: Burgess, S., & Turkstra, L.. (2010). Quality of Communication Life in Adolescents With HighFunctioning Autism and Asperger Syndrome: A Feasibility Study. Language, Speech & Hearing Services in Schools (Online), 41(4), 474-487. Retrieved March 20, 2012, from ProQuest Health and Medical Complete. (Document ID: 2269392591). Cui, J., Gao, D., Chen, Y., Zou, X., & Wang, Y. (2010). Working Memory in Early-School-Age Children with Asperger's Syndrome. Journal Of Autism And Developmental Disorders, 40(8), 958-967. Emerich, D. M., Creaghead, N. A., Grether, S. M., Murray, D., & Grasha,C. (2003). The Comprehension of Humorous Materials by Adolescents with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's Syndrome. Journal Of Autism And Developmental Disorders, 33(3), 253-57. Webster, J. (2012). Asperger’s syndrome in the general education classroom: best practices to help students with Asperger’s syndrome succeed. Retrieved from http://www.specialed.about.com/ Weinstein, A. (2012). Asperger’s in the classroom. Retrieved from http://www.education.com/ Worth, S. and Reynolds, S. (2008) The Assessment and Identification of Language Impairment in Asperger's Syndrome: A Case Study. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, v24. N1, p55-17.

Steffani Tuttle EDU 744

Literature Review

April 21, 2012

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