A comparative study of free recall for LD, ADHD, and ADHD+LD children
Smith, Donna Rury
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The fields of educational psychology and special education overlap when children with special needs are assessed for the purpose of designing educational interventions. This study researched 3 special needs groups: pure Learning Disordered (LD), pure Attention Deficit with Hyperactivity Disordered (ADHD), and a mixed ADHD+LD sample to determine if they perform in significantly different ways on a memory test of free recall, to support differential diagnoses and to identify group-specific intervention needs. Subjects were 30 LDs, 30 ADHDs, and 30 ADHD+LDs between the ages of 7 and 10 who had been referred to private clinics with presenting problems of learning and/or behavior. ADHD and ADHD+LDs were tested off psychostimulant medication. The Children's Auditory Verbal Learning Test (CAVLT) was used in conjunction with the PPVT-R and Wechsler Digit Span to assess short and long-term memory, learning curve, effects of Interference, recognition accuracy and the ability to discriminate relevant from extraneous information. Evidence of a group-specific CAVLT profile was sought. Results of Profile Analyses of Repeated Measures (a MANOVA procedure) and correlated t-tests indicated that: LDs performed less well than ADHDs, ADHD+LDs, and normals. They demonstrated lower learning rate and difficulty sustaining effort over multiple trials, and were less able to discriminate relevant from extraneous data; however, their recognition skills were on par with other groups. Discriminant analysis showed that the CAVLT was able to predict LD classification with over 80% accuracy. ADHDs performed more like normals than not. They demonstrated more problems with short-term memory especially with proactive interference effect than any other deficit area. They were able to sustain effort over trials and exhibited the strongest learning curve. The mixed ADHD+LD group tended to look more like ADHDs than LDs. This group demonstrated the most inconsistent learning curve suggesting difficulty sustaining effort over multiple trials. They were also more susceptible to interference effects. Since several earlier studies did not carefully control for LD contamination in ADHD studies, it is possible some of the deficits attributed to pure ADHDs actually reflect ADHD+LD performance. Correlated t-tests indicated that groups differed from each other and from the normative sample across trials, but only the LD group performed statistically different on scales. It was concluded that group-specific interventions are appropriate and that the CAVLT can contribute in meaningful ways to a comprehensive psychoeducational battery.