Behavioral Intervention and Working Memory

By Marlena N. Smith

In a recent study, Lisa Baltruschat and other CARD research and development faculty found behavioral intervention to improve working memory in three children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Children with ASD often display deficits in areas of executive functioning including working memory, the ability to simultaneously store and process information. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the use of positive reinforcement to improve working memory in children with ASD.

Three children with ASD, ages 7-11 years, participated in the study. Working memory was assessed via counting span tasks; the participants were asked to count, memorize, and later recall the number of shapes illustrated on index cards. During the treatment phase, participants were given access to a highly preferred object for their correct responses. Corrective feedback was provided for the participants’ incorrect responses.

All participants demonstrated improved performances on the counting span tasks following the introduction of behavioral intervention. Furthermore, the participants demonstrated maintenance after the treatment was terminated and showed generalization to untrained stimuli and responses.

This was the first study to investigate the use of behavioral intervention to improve working memory in children with ASD. The results suggest that positive reinforcement may be effective in improving counting span task performance in children with ASD. Further research is needed to explore the use of behavioral intervention for other skills involving working memory and executive functioning.

Baltruschat, L., Hasselhorn, M., Tarbox, J., Dixon, D. R., Najdowski, A. C., Mullins, R. D., & Gould, E. R. (in press). Addressing working memory in children with autism through behavioral intervention. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. doi:10.1016/j.rasd.2010.04.008

No comments:

Post a Comment