The impact of executive functioning on the mathematics achievement of autistic adolescents

Eddy, Nicole R.A. (2022) The impact of executive functioning on the mathematics achievement of autistic adolescents. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Executive Function (EF) involves the neurological processes behind how we organize environmental information, plan, and direct behaviour. EF components have been found to be related to mathematical performance in the general population. Autistic individuals often experience challenges with their executive functioning– what is referred to as “executive dysfunction”. Additionally, autistic individuals display a widespread pattern of mathematics achievement, with below and above IQ-expected performance, and are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with a math-based learning disability than the general population. The present study explored the relationship of EF and math performance in an autistic youth (around 12-18 years old) sample as compared to a non-autistic sample. Twenty autistic and 34 non-autistic individuals participated in individual remote, online, and synchronous testing sessions in which they completed a battery of measures– including an intellectual ability assessment, fractional (procedural and conceptual) and operational math measures, and EF component tasks. Results from a series of hierarchical linear regressions indicated that the only significant group difference in math skills was found for the fractional procedural math measure; however, none of the EF component task scores were able to account for this difference. This suggests that EF may not exert the same degree of influence on autistic math performance as it does for the general population; however, the small sample size acquired for this study largely limits the statistical power and scope of the results. Future research should explore other possible predictors of math performance in autistic samples.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 15675
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 58-75)
Keywords: autism, executive function, mathematics working memory, shifting, inhibition
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Psychology
Science, Faculty of > Psychology
Date: August 2022
Date Type: Submission
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Autism; Executive functions (Neuropsychology)--Testing; Mathematical ability--Testing; Inhibition

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