Information processing styles in autism spectrum disorder

Ms Valda Biezaitis (2009). Information processing styles in autism spectrum disorder Professional Doctorate, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland.

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Author Ms Valda Biezaitis
Thesis Title Information processing styles in autism spectrum disorder
School, Centre or Institute School of Psychology
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2009
Thesis type Professional Doctorate
Supervisor John McLean
Ken McFarland
Total pages 229
Abstract/Summary Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a heterogeneous neurodevelopmental disorder that affects approximately 0.6% of the population. A fascinating observation in ASD is the phenomenon of performance superiority. In the context of significant impairment in many areas of functioning, islets of ability are often displayed by people with ASD. Numerous theories have been circulated in an attempt to explain the findings of performance superiority, as well as other characteristics of ASD. Probably the most prominent such theory discussed in the ASD literature is the weak central coherence theory. The current project was dedicated to exploring the assessment of weak central coherence cognitive style, thought to characterise ASD. The ultimate goal here was to further general understanding of ASD and weak central coherence, with applicability to clinical practice. Chapter 1 of this dissertation provides an exploration of both historical and contemporary research literature describing the features and peculiarities of ASD. This review places particular emphasis on the weak central coherence theory of ASD, and leads into the core issues that were explored in the current project. Chapter 2 follows on with a review of the broader cognitive style literature. Drawing connections between the broader cognitive style literature and weak central coherence theory, a focus of this chapter is then on measurement. In response to problems with the measurement of cognitive style identified in the literature, two new alternative approaches to the assessment of weak central coherence style at the individual level are proposed. Chapter 3 outlines the first empirical study of the current project, which provided an important opportunity to trial the new assessment approaches in the general population. Addressing the issues arising from the preliminary study outlined in chapter 3, and in preparation for the primary clinical study of the current project, chapter 4 explores three issues: the addition of a new complementary task to the battery for assessment of weak central coherence cognitive style; the utility of single-case study methodology in ASD and weak central coherence research; and the rationale and decisions made regarding diagnostic and inclusion criteria for participants in the primary clinical study. Chapters 5 and 6 outline the primary clinical study of the current project. This study was conducted with a group of high functioning, school-aged children diagnosed with ASD, and a comparison group matched on age, gender and nonverbal IQ. The study aimed to explore the variation of weak central coherence style in ASD, and to further develop an approach to the assessment of weak central coherence style. Chapter 5 outlines analyses of performances on weak central coherence tasks conducted at the group level, as well as examining patterns between tasks used in the assessment of weak central coherence. Individual differences in style approach are explored utilising single-case study methodology in chapter 6. In chapter 7, the findings of the current project are summarised around several key research contributions. Firstly, the need for further refinement of the weak central coherence model is emphasised, and suggestions for future directions in model development are made. Secondly, considerations for the future improvement of weak central coherence assessment methods are suggested. Also, after highlighting variation of weak central coherence style within ASD in the current project, the need to further explore both possible subgroups on the central coherence dimension and the typical variation of style approach within the general population is emphasised. Finally, the value and importance of utilising single-case methodology in the assessment of weak central coherence style and research with the ASD population is highlighted. The implications of the current research for both researchers and clinicians are considered in chapter 7, and suggestions for how to facilitate the transition of the weak central coherence theory from the research laboratory to applied therapy and educational settings are also made.

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Created: Sun, 30 Aug 2009, 10:18:22 EST by Ms Valda Biezaitis