HeatherBrown

Heather Brown

Assistant Professor

Educational Psychology
Autism Spectrum Disorder and Academic Achievement (AIDAN) lab
heather2@ualberta.ca


Research and Interests

The academic achievement of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a largely unexamined area of development. While previous research has demonstrated individuals with ASD have extremely variable performance on global measures of academic achievement, ranging from severely impaired to exceptional, there is little research that has attempted to describe their strengths and weaknesses in a given academic domain or how a diagnosis of autism may impact learning.

In my Autism Spectrum Disorder and Academic Achievement (AIDAN) lab, we address two key questions:

  1. How well do students with ASD perform academically across subjects and domains?
  2. What features of HFASD lead to academic strengths or weakness?

I am currently involved in a number of studies. To give you a snapshot of the work that I am doing, here is a description of four of my current projects.

  1. Developing a Model of Mathematical Ability for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The aims of this study are to compare the mathematical skills of children without disabilities to those with Autism Spectrum Disorders. We are examining math skills, such as: counting, estimation, arithmetic, geometry and math problem solving. This study also aims to compare the degree to which language ability and cognitive processes (i.e., thinking skills) influence mathematical ability.
  2. The Interplay of Language Skill and Social Knowledge in the Written Narratives of Children and Adolescents with Autism. The aims of this study are to compare the narrative writing (i.e., story writing) of children and adolescents without disabilities to those with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). This study also aims to compare the degree to which language, social knowledge and thinking skills influence the writing process.
  3. Effects of JUMP Math and MathLinks on Students’ Math Skills: An Intervention Study with Student with Learning Disabilities. In partnership with Ms. Alina Engstrom at the Academy at King Edward School, we are comparing the effectiveness of two different math interventions in order to see which one is the most effective with this student population. We are also examining predictors of math LD including math specific predictors (e.g., magnitude comparison) and math general predictors (visual spatial skills and executive functioning).
  4. Flexible Pathways to Writing. In collaboration with Alberta Education and Dr. Veronica Smith, I am part of a team of researchers and educators who are exploring the use of technology to support and develop writing skills and science content knowledge in a large sample of grade 5 students.

I am currently accepting new students for the fall of 2017 and 2018. I am also looking for RAs to help with some of the following:

  • Administrative duties: data entry, ethics applications
  • Assessments: running students through test protocols


Representative Publications

Brown, H.M., Smyth, R. E., Ansari, D. (in preparation). Which is More? Are dot and digit comparison tasks a strong predictor of children's math abilities? A Meta-Analysis.

Brown, H. M., Ansell, N., Altani, A., & MacCormack, J. (in preparation). Examining the Mathematical Abilities of Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Meta-analysis.

Kwok, E. Y., Brown, H. M., Smyth, R. E., & Oram Cardy, J. (2015). Meta­analysis of receptive and expressive language skills in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 9, 202­222.

Brown, H. M., Johnson, A. M., Smyth, R. E., & Oram Cardy, J. (2014). Exploring the persuasive writing skills of students with high­functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 8, 1482­1499. doi:10.1016/j.rasd.2014.07.017 

Brown, H. M., Oram Cardy, J., & Johnson, A. (2013). A meta­analysis on the reading comprehension skills of individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 43, 932­955. doi: 10.1007/s10803­ 012­16381

Brown, H. M. & Klein, P. D. (2011). Writing, Asperger syndrome and theory of mind. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 41, 1464­1474. doi:10.1007/s10803­010­1168­7

Selected Presentations

Brown, H. M., Ansell, N., Altani, A., & MacCormack, J. (2017, May). Examining the Mathematical Abilities of Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Meta-analysis. Poster presented at the annual International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) in San Francisco, California. 

Brown, H.M., Smyth, R. E., Ansari, D. (2017, April). Which is More? Are dot and digit comparison tasks a strong predictor of children's math abilities? A Meta-Analysis. Poster presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) in Austin, Texas.

Kirkpatrick, L.C., Searle, M., Brown, H.M., Sauder, A., Smyth, R., & Ready, E. (2017, May). The impact of a 1:1 iPad initiative on intermediate students' language, mathematics, and learning skills achievement. Poster presented at the annual conference of the Canadian Society for Studies in Education, Toronto, Ontario.

Brown, H. M. (2014, May). Academic Achievement of Children and Adolescents with High­Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder with an In­Depth Focus on Written Expression. Invited speaker at the Pursuit Award Ceremony Finalist Presentation. Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, Toronto, Ontario.

Brown, H. M., Oram Cardy, J., Smyth, R. E., & Johnson, A. M. (2014, May). Exploring the narrative writing skills of students with high ­functioning autism spectrum disorders. Poster presented at International Meeting for Autism Research, Atlanta, Georgia.

Brown, H. M., Oram Cardy, J., Archibald, L. M. D., Johnson, A. & Volden, J. (2013, May). A meta­analysis examining the academic achievement of individuals with ASD in reading, writing, and mathematics. Poster presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research, San Sebastián, Spain.

Brown, H. M. (2010, November). Jessica Coulson Award Presentation. Invited speaker at the Center for Inclusive Education. UWO, London, Ontario.

Brown, H. M. (2010, May). Dunlop Award Research Presentation. Invited presentation given at the Canadian Society for the Study of Education. Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec.

Brown, H. M. & Klein, P. D. (2010, April). The writing of adults with and without autism. Poster presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Denver, Colorado.

Courses Taught

EDPY 497: Supporting Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder at School

Winter 2017

This flipped-classroom course provides a detailed overview of Autism Spectrum Disorders including characteristics of children and youth with ASD as well as common strengths and challenges of these individuals. Interventions used with the ASD population will be a priority.

This course uses an active learning framework to focus on the role of the teacher with regards to assessment of, and instructional programming for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) relevant to day to day teaching in the classroom. An in-depth understanding of a broad range of best practices and strategies to maximize the learning experience for students with ASD is emphasized.

 

EDPY 401: Assessment and Instruction of Exceptional Learners

Fall 2016

Fall 2015 (co-taught with A. Thomas)

General Description: This blended-delivery course uses an active learning framework to focus on the role of the teacher with regards to assessment of, and instructional programming for, students having special learning needs, relevant to day to day teaching in the classroom. An in-depth understanding of a broad range of best practices and strategies to maximize the learning experience for students with exceptional needs is emphasized.

Student Learning Outcomes

  1. Explain in depth why “understanding student learning needs” is important to your teaching.
  2. Explain how you can modify the curriculum, your teaching and/or the environment based on your understanding of a student’s learning needs.

 

EDPY 497: Supporting Students with Math Learning Disabilities

Winter 2016

This flipped-classroom course provides a detailed overview of students with math learning difficulties, math learning disabilities, and dyscalculia, henceforth termed (MLD), as well as common strengths and challenges of these individuals. Interventions used with students with MLD population will be a priority.

This course uses an active learning framework to focus on the role of the teacher with regards to assessment of, and instructional programming for students with MLD relevant to day to day teaching in the classroom. An in-depth understanding of a broad range of best practices and strategies to maximize the learning experience for students with MLD is emphasized. Students will gain hands-on experience working 1:1 with a student with MLD from the community.


EDPY 615 Program Evaluation – co-taught with Dr. V. Smith

EDPY 510: Theories of Learning – co-taught with Dr. G. Buck

EDPY 597: Complex Cases: From Assessment to Intervention – co-taught with Dr. A. McInnes

EDPY 597: Writing Difficulties: From Assessment to Intervention – co-taught with Dr. D. Hayward

EDPY 903: Capping Project – co-taught with Dr. A. McInnes