International Meeting for Autism Research: Arithmetic Abilities of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Arithmetic Abilities of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Thursday, May 12, 2011
Elizabeth Ballroom E-F and Lirenta Foyer Level 2 (Manchester Grand Hyatt)
10:00 AM
D. Titeca1, H. Roeyers2, A. Desoete1 and S. Pieters1, (1)Department of Experimental- Clinical and Health Psychology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium, (2)Department of Experimental - Clinical and Health Psychology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
Background:  Up till now, studies in the domain of cognitive and academic functioning in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are relatively scarce, and results are inconsistent. According to recent estimations, approximately 70% of the children with ASD may have intellectual abilities in the normal range – and should therefore be able to follow a regular educational program. This seems however in contrast with the experience of practitioners. Regarding the field of arithmetics, many children with ASD seem to have difficulties with the mathematical techniques used in mainstream schools. In the current literature on ASD, only a few studies have examined this topic. Further investigation is needed to get a more detailed overview of the field.

Objectives:  The present study wants to examine to what extent children with ASD experience difficulties with arithmetics and what kind of mathematical problems can be detected. The aim of this study was to investigate the arithmetic abilities of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in comparison to children with mathematical learning disability (MLD) and age-matched control children without ASD and MLD.

Methods:   Twenty-two children with ASD, 22 children with MLD and 22 control children without ASD or mathematical problems participated in this study (M = 8.5 years; SD = 1.0 years). All 66 children were at least of average intelligence. To examine the arithmetic abilities, all children were assessed on number fact retrieval (with the Arithmetic Number Facts Test; TTR) and on the different aspects of the Triple Code Model (visual identification of Arabic numbers, verbal processing of number words and quantity representation; with the TEDI-MATH).

Results:  Given the small group sizes, non-parametric analysis were conducted. Group comparisons revealed a trend on number fact retrieval (Kruskal-Wallis χ²(2) = 5.90, p < .10), and a significant difference on visual identification of Arabic numbers and verbal processing of number words (Kruskal-Wallis χ²(2) = 6.13 and 8.88 respectively, p < .05). Post-hoc analyses revealed that children with ASD and children with MLD performed significantly worse than the control children, whereas the two clinical groups did not differ from each other.

Conclusions:  Children with ASD show mathematical difficulties on the domain of number fact retrieval and on several aspects of the Triple Code Model. This finding underscores the importance of following up the mathematical abilities of this group of children. The results of this study suggest that adjustments in educational techniques should be based on a profound analysis of the strengths and weaknesses in mathematics so as to meet the specific needs of children with ASD. A clear understanding of the specific mathematical difficulties also aims at the development of an appropriate STICORDI-advice (STImulation, COmpensation, Remediation and DIspensation). Future research should assess the mathematical abilities of children with ASD more extensively, so that more aspects of the arithmetic field are included in the assessment and more subtle problems can be detected as well. In addition, it will be important to investigate the underlying processes thoroughly. Such studies are currently being prepared.

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