When looking at performance – be it academic performance or social competence – you want to look to for the source of the difficulty when there are challenges. This requires a clear understanding of what the task requires – a task analysis – and knowing a child’s abilities or learning profile. As an example, consider a child that has difficulty with peer relationships, reading, and writing. What is an appropriate goal? What are appropriate strategies or therapy? WHY is the child having difficulty?
Consider that this largely depends on the child’s learning profile!
One of the core deficits in Autism is perspective taking. This shows up across many activities:
- Cooperative play requires a perspective of what is fun for others, and that what is fun for you may not be fun for others, and that just as much as you hate waiting for your turn, that’s how much others hate waiting for you. Just as much as you don’t like people in your personal space, others don’t like it either. Perspective taking deficits impact peer relationships.
- Reading comprehension may require you to understand the author’s perspective to get the point, moral, or theme; you may need to take the character’s perspective to understand their experience and motivations/intentions in a story; or you may identify with a main character, but not see how you can take the perspective of other characters/multiple characters (this can be challenging in stories that feature an “anti-hero!” such as a vigilante!
- Writing requires you to have the perspective of the audience you are writing for. What is their education level? What is their interest level? How much information do you need to provide to establish relatedness and context on a topic? What information is necessary? How much information is too much? How much is too little?
These are some of the places that Autism can impact peer relationships and behaviour, reading comprehension, and writing.
In ADHD, there are difficulties with selecting a goal and following through on it. Core deficits include attention, memory, and impulsivity and it impacts the ability to successfully manage information to fulfill on tasks. This can show up across the same activities:
- on the playground, children with ADHD often have difficulty predicting consequences, and they have trouble with inhibition. They get an idea, and they tend to act on it. This can lead to risky or reckless behaviour with themselves or others, or it can resemble aggression. Other children may not want to play with you because you are too rough, you invade their personal space (especially spontaneous hugging, tackling, or pulling hair), or they think your game is likely to get them in trouble.
- When reading, children with ADHD often have trouble with tracking due to working memory issues. They may miss a word or miss a whole line. It can be difficult to decode longer, multi-syllable words. They have difficulty consolidating what they are reading – they may fixate on specific details but miss the big picture, or they may get the big picture but be fuzzy on the details. Impulsivity leads to reading inaccuracy as they may “read what they think should be there” and add words, or look at the first letter and guess the rest of the word. Children with ADHD typically have poor meta-cognition and self-reflection/self-monitoring skills, so they tend to “plow” through errors without self-correcting or “repairing” reading errors.
- Writing is one of the most complex processing tasks that we ask children to do. When writing, children must think of what they want to say and organize the content; they must retrieve the vocabulary words from memory that they want to use, and order those words according to syntax rules; they must match and align the word level grammar (such as matching verb tenses); they must retrieve the proper spelling of the word, retrieve the letter plan for letter formation, and remember to use writing conventions such as punctuation and Capitalization – all while remembering what they wanted to say, and how it “flows” from the previous sentence, and carries continuity through to the following sentence. This is a MASSIVE demand on the working memory system, which is notoriously weak in students with ADHD.
As we can see in these examples, there are two different diagnoses that “explain” the performance deficit – the challenge in performing at peer relationships, reading comprehension, and writing. However, at the SOURCE of the performance problem are two very different core deficits. Understanding a child’s learning profile in combination with task analysis allows you to understand which skills are needed to fulfill on a task – such as reading comprehension – and to understand how a child’s core deficit impacts performance in that task.
What is your child’s learning profile? Find out NOW!