Objectives: This study examines the academic abilities of children who achieved “optimal outcomes” (OO).
Methods: Performance of 26 children who achieved OO (M(age) =13.0), 20 high functioning children with a current ASD diagnosis (HFA, M(age) = 13.1), and 22 typically-developing peers (TD, M(age) = 13.4) were compared on the Passage Comprehension, Applied Problems and Word Attack subtests of the Woodcock-Johnson, III (WJ-III). Additionally, 21 children with OO were compared to 14 children with HFA and 20 TD peers on their performance on the Contextual Conventions, Contextual Language and Story Construction subtests measuring the spontaneous writing sample of the Test of Written Language, Third Edition (TOWL-3). The groups were matched on age and sex. Although groups were not significantly different on verbal IQ (M(VIQ)=105.6, 113.7, 114.1, for HFA, OO and TD, respectively), the HFA group scored 8.3 points lower than the other groups.
Results: Children in all three groups scored in the average range on the subtests of the WJ-III. Performance on the Applied Problems and Word Attack subtests did not differ significantly between the three groups. On the Passage Comprehension subtest, children in the OO and TD groups performed similarly and exhibited less difficulty than did children with HFA (M(TD)=113.1, M(OO)=110.6, M(HFA)=102.6, p<.05). Children across groups performed in the average range on the subtests of the TOWL-3. Scores measuring the mechanics of written language were comparable for the OO and TD groups, while children with HFA had significantly more difficulty with these skills than did the children who achieved OO (M(TD)=10.5, M(OO)=12.3, M(HFA)=9.3, p=<.05). Children in the OO group performed similarly to their TD peers on the subtest measuring the use of grammar, sentence structure and vocabulary, and both groups had higher scores than the HFA group on this subtest (M(TD)=12.6, M(OO)=12.6, M(HFA)=9.9, p<.05). A comparison of scores on a measure of story construction indicated that children in the OO and TD groups received similar scores and exhibited less difficulty relative to children in the HFA group (M(TD)=11.4, M(OO)=10.9, M(HFA)=8.7, p<.05).
Conclusions: The results of this study suggest that the decoding, reading comprehension, writing and arithmetic abilities of children who achieve OO are similar to those of their TD peers. Although children with HFA performed in the average range on all measures, they showed greater difficulty with reading comprehension, mechanical aspects of written language, structure of written language and story construction than did children who achieved OO. Preliminary evidence suggests that children who achieve OO exhibit stronger academic skills than are displayed by children who have retained their ASD diagnosis.