Understanding and supporting neurodevelopmental needs: a systematic review of prospective memory in children and adults with ADHD; and, An investigation of the underlying cognitive mechanisms of stress appraisal of classroom assistants and teachers of autistic students
The needs of neurodiverse populations are inherently atypical and often complex. To better understand and support such populations, it is necessary to better understand neurodiverse individuals’ abilities and difficulties in tasks critical to navigating daily life. Furthermore, it is important to consider the key figures in the systems around neurodiverse individuals, and factors that may influence their confidence and well-being when supporting them. Chapter One of the current thesis systematically reviews evidence of prospective memory (PM) ability, in children, adolescents and adults with a diagnosis of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). PM involves remembering to execute plans at the appropriate moment, such as taking medication at the correct time, and so is critical to successful daily life. Fourteen studies were identified from systematic searches of the literature; nine involving children and adolescents, and five involving adults. Overall, results demonstrated a general PM deficit for all age groups with ADHD, compared to neurotypical controls. Performance was mostly in line with the Multiprocess Framework; specifically, that PM is disproportionality more difficult for those with limited executive capacity on tasks assumed to place more demand on executive functioning (e.g., time-based tasks, or tasks with low cue salience). Consideration is then given to these results in how they may inform the design and implementation of strategies to support PM in the ADHD population, including cognitive “offloading” (e.g., setting reminders), PM and executive functioning training and environmental adaptations. Chapter 2 reports the results of a cross-sectional study, the primary aim of which was to investigate the role of teacher and classroom assistant self-efficacy, specific to autism (SE-ASC), in explaining the relationship between autism knowledge and stress appraisal of classroom incidents involving autistic pupils. Two hundred and seven responses were acquired via an online questionnaire. Autism knowledge was not associated with any other construct, requiring unplanned, exploratory analysis. Results revealed SE-ASC to be a significant (negative) predictor of negative, but not positive, stress appraisal. The same (non)significant relationships were found in the other direction; negative, but not positive, stress appraisal (negatively) predicted SE-ASC. Pupil age, school-type (e.g., mainstream vs specialist school) and autism training also predicted SE-ASC. Finally, between-group analysis revealed teachers indicated significantly higher levels of positive stress appraisal than classroom assistants. However, both groups were parallel on scores of SE-ASC and autism knowledge. These results indicate the importance of SE-ASC in the perceived stress of teachers and classroom assistants when supporting autistic pupils, and of the potential importance of factors such as school-type and training in contributing to higher levels of SE ASC. Together, these chapters highlight the daily functioning difficulties of neurodiverse populations, particularly those with executive functioning impairments, and the factors that potentially contribute to the confidence and perceived stress when supporting them.