Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) demonstrate heterogeneous writing skills that are generally lower than their typically developing (TD) peers and similar to peers with attention difficulties like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Recent evidence suggests children with ASD spend less time engaging in writing tasks compared to their peers, but previous studies have not examined engagement specifically within the writing task environment. This study used video observation data collected from 121 school-age children (60 children with ASD, 32 children with ADHD, and 29 TD children) to compare differences in visual attention and writing task behaviors and relationships between task behaviors and age, cognitive skills, and ASD and ADHD symptom severity. Findings indicated that groups mostly spent time looking at and writing on the draft, though this was lowest in the ASD group. No differences were found between the ASD and ADHD groups after accounting for task behavior durations as percentages of total used task time. Groups spent little time looking at their outlines and looking away from the task, with all groups spending relatively more time looking at the task picture. Time spent engaged with the draft showed a positive relationship with writing performance across groups, but a negative relationship between time spent looking at the task picture and writing performance only appeared for the ADHD group. The ASD and ADHD groups showed negative associations between draft engagement and ASD symptom severity but not ADHD symptom severity. Implications are discussed for understanding writing task engagement in research and instructional contexts. Lay Summary: Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) demonstrate variable writing skills. Here, we examine how children with ASD engage during a writing task by using video observation data to compare their engagement to peers with and without attention difficulties. Findings indicate (a) lower draft engagement and similar task disengagement in children with ASD compared to their peers and (b) moderate-to-strong relationships between writing scores and ASD symptom severity with within-task engagement in children with ASD and their peers with attention difficulties.
- attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
- autism spectrum disorder
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology