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Case Studies Comparing Learning Profiles and Response to Instruction in Autism Spectrum Disorder and Oral and Written Language Learning Disability at Transition to High School

Zajic, Matthew C.; Dunn, Michael; Berninger, Virginia W.

doi: 10.1097/TLD.0000000000000180
Original Articles

This study investigated literacy learning in students with specific kinds of language challenges at a specific stage of schooling—transition to high school—when the language requirements of the curriculum can be especially challenging. For this exploratory research, a case study approach was adopted that compared 2 adolescent boys both with language learning problems but with 2 contrasting disabilities—autism spectrum disorder (ASD) versus oral and written language learning disability (OWL LD)—just before entry to ninth grade. Three research aims compared participants on (a) learning profiles assessed via a comprehensive psychoeducational assessment battery, (b) change in their learning profiles based on response to instruction to a computerized intervention, and (c) change in their personal narrative compositions and use of taught translation strategies collected during 6 lessons of the computerized intervention. Results indicated that participants demonstrated variable psychoeducational profiles and response to instruction that highlighted similar yet distinct patterns of strengths and weaknesses. Personal narrative writing samples showed that participants demonstrated distinct challenges, but only the participant with ASD showed no response to instruction and produced predominantly off-topic text. Results are discussed in reference to educational applications and future research design implications to understand the writing challenges experienced by children with ASD in reference to children with OWL LD or other specific learning disabilities.

Curry School of Education and Human Development, University of Virginia, Charlottesville (Dr Zajic); College of Education, Washington State University Vancouver (Dr Dunn); and College of Education, University of Washington, Seattle (Dr Berninger).

Corresponding Author: Matthew C. Zajic, PhD, Curriculum, Instruction and Special Education, University of Virginia, PO Box 400273, Charlottesville, VA 22904 (

This research was supported in part by HD P50HD071764 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health to the University of Washington. Matthew C. Zajic received support from a Postdoctoral Research Training Program in Special Education and Early Intervention Grant (R324B180034) from the National Center for Special Education Research at the Institute of Education Sciences during the drafting of this manuscript.

The authors have indicated that they have no financial and no nonfinancial relationships to disclose.

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