Study aims to improve academic outcomes for children with autism

Improving academic outcomes by moderating anxiety in children with autism is the aim of a new Griffith University Australian Research Council Linkage Project.

The $418,407 study will map the relationship between anxiety and academic behaviours that enable effective learning for children with autism.

“This will immediately inform a model for intervention aimed at children entering their first year of formal schooling,’’ says Chief Investigator Professor Deb Keen from the Griffith Institute for Educational Research, who leads the project team that includes Griffith University colleagues, Dr Dawn Adams and Dr Kate Simpson.

She said there was an urgent need to examine the impact of anxiety on early academic success given the high levels of anxiety in preschool children with autism and the association between anxiety and academic achievement in the general population.

“A most challenging time for children with autism is transition into the first year of formal schooling and successful adjustment to school is associated with better social and academic outcomes.

“Autism costs Australia more than $8 billion per year so any improvement in socio-economic outcomes for this group is beneficial.

“Our aim is to better understand and influence the processes that lead to the successful development of academic enabling behaviours and academic skills in children with autism.”

She said improving academic success and outcomes was important because children with autism often find school challenging with 84% having difficulties at school and 48% needing to attend special classes or schools.

“While social and communication difficulties are defining characteristics of autism, learning difficulties are not, and research is needed to understand why such a large percentage of children are experiencing such difficulties.

“Our research will give our partner, AEIOU Foundation, access to an evidence-based intervention that may lead to a moresuccessful experience for the children in their service when they transition to school.”