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Durham University

Psychology

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Publication details for Professor Deborah Riby

Kirk, Hannah E., Gray, Kylie, Riby, Deborah M., Taffe, John & Cornish, Kim M. (2017). Visual attention and academic performance in children with developmental disabilities and behavioural attention deficits. Developmental Science 20(6): e12468.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

Despite well-documented attention deficits in children with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), distinctions across types of attention problems and their association with academic attainment has not been fully explored. This study examines visual attention capacities and inattentive/hyperactive behaviours in 77 children aged 4 to 11 years with IDD and elevated behavioural attention difficulties. Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD; n = 23), Down syndrome (DS; n = 22), and non-specific intellectual disability (NSID; n = 32) completed computerized visual search and vigilance paradigms. In addition, parents and teachers completed rating scales of inattention and hyperactivity. Concurrent associations between attention abilities and early literacy and numeracy skills were also examined. Children completed measures of receptive vocabulary, phonological abilities and cardinality skills. As expected, the results indicated that all groups had relatively comparable levels of inattentive/hyperactive behaviours as rated by parents and teachers. However, the extent of visual attention deficits varied as a result of group; namely children with DS had poorer visual search and vigilance abilities than children with ASD and NSID. Further, significant associations between visual attention difficulties and poorer literacy and numeracy skills were observed, regardless of group. Collectively the findings demonstrate that in children with IDD who present with homogenous behavioural attention difficulties, at the cognitive level, subtle profiles of attentional problems can be delineated.

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