Autism, ADHD, and Children’s Learning – Insights from Psychological Science

Critical issues in learning, ADHD and autism will be explored during the Association for Psychological Science annual convention in Chicago, from May 23 to the 27th.  Leaders in the field studying attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorders, learning, and childhood development will present the latest in psychological science research that will shed light on treatment options, disorder management, memory and school performance.


There will be two major offerings in ADHD research.

Four experts on ADHD will present current research, and discuss future directions for treating and assessing the disorder. Howard Berenbaum from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Arnaud Rey from Aix-Marseille University, France will moderate the session.

Friday, May 25, 2012 10:30 AM – 11:50 AM

Chicago Ballroom X

  • Children with ADHD typically have great difficulty in both following and creating linear narratives. What does this reveal about the disorder and how can the creation of narratives actually address some of the problems that these children encounter in school? Richard S. Milich from the University of Kentucky has focused on this subject and will discuss the academic difficulties of children with ADHD and how they are connected to the difficulty that they have in creating coherent narratives.

Richard S. Milich, Professor of Psychology, University of Kentucky —

  • The brain chemistry of children with ADHD will be discussed by Tiago V. Maia from Columbia University. What neurotransmitters are involved in producing the cognitive and behavioral symptoms that characterize this disorder? No one knows for sure, but by using a computer simulation of the role of norepinephrine in attention, these researchers found that low levels of norepinephrine produce many of ADHD’s symptoms.

Tiago V. Maia, Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurobiology, Columbia University –

  • The part of our brain that keeps us organized, that helps us prioritize various situations with order and agility is known as executive function. One characteristic of children with ADHD is that the part of their brain responsible for executive functioning is compromised. As a result, when they should react with speed and clarity, they respond slowly and with uncertainty. But executive function is not simply a single process. By isolating response times into different components, Cynthia Huang-Pollock from Pennsylvania State University teases out the connections between poor executive function performance and the response times. This connection can lead to new understanding about ADHD and may lead to new strategies for treating the disorder.

Cynthia Huang-Pollock, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Pennsylvania State University –

  • Why and how did ADHD become the most commonly diagnosed mental disorder among children and adolescents, as well as one of the most controversial? In trying to answer these questions, Rick Mayes from the University of Richmond integrates analyses of the political, historical, educational, social, economic, and legal aspects of ADHD and stimulant pharmacotherapy.

Rick Mayes, Associate Professor of Public Policy, Department of Political Science, University of Richmond –

Medication is the primary treatment for 90% of children who suffer from ADHD, with only 10% relying on behavioral modification. William E. Pelham from Florida International University will explore the complicated issue of ADHD medication versus behavior modification. Pelham will address ADHD medications’ long term safety and effectiveness.  Many children are not just treated with one medicine, but receive a cocktail of different drugs, some to address attention, others to address hyperactivity, still others to address the side effects of the drugs. He will explain the current state of medication, based on comprehensive review of recent studies. Medicine is not the only treatment option, however, and may not be the best.  He will examine the limitations of medication and the benefits of employing behavioral intervention before using stimulant medication.

William E. Pelham, Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry, Florida International University –

Friday May 25, 3:00 PM-3:50

Chicago Ballroom IX


Two leading researchers will address convention participants about autism.

Early intervention is critical in addressing autism spectrum disorders. Geraldine Dawson, a professor of Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Chief Science Officer at Autism Speaks will talk about early intervention and promising new studies of infants at risk for autism spectrum disorders. She says these studies have provided valuable insights into very early development of autism and new screening tools for identifying infants at risk for autism spectrum disorders. She will discuss the state of the science and future directions in early detection and intervention, with a focus on the infant-toddler period.

Geraldine Dawson, professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Chief Science Officer, Autism Speaks —

Friday, May 25, 1:00PM-1:50 PM

Sheraton Ballroom III

Learning for children with autism can be a serious challenge. Sheila Jodlowski Hudson Valley Behavioral Solutions will examine how Applied Behavior Analysis is an effective methodology to teach children with autism and other developmental disabilities.  She will discuss data collected during the early intervention programs of three young children diagnosed with developmental delays who went from 10 hours per week of this instruction to 30 hours per week. Compared to other children receiving 10 hours or less of ABA, these children demonstrated dramatic differences in rates of learning and skill acquisition.

Sheila Jodlowski, Director, Hudson Valley Behavioral Solutions –

Saturday, May 26 11:30 AM -12:20 PM



In the area of learning three researchers will offer very different insights into learning and performance.

Memory is essential in all sorts of learning, especially when coming up with answers to exam questions. Usually, measuring the ability to come up with the answers to test questions can be seen as a way to measure memory. But little attention is paid to how working memory can actually be changed by the process of retrieving the answers to questions in a test situation. The processes that our minds go through to dredge up the answers may be as significant as the answers themselves. It almost doesn’t matter if the answer is right or wrong, the way that the answer is arrived at can exert large positive effects on future tests. Henry L. Roediger, III, from Washington University in St. Louis, will discuss how the power of retrieval is as evident in the classroom as in the lab and may have important consequences for educational practice.

Henry L. Roediger, III, Professor of Psychology, Washington University in St. Louis –

Friday May 25, 9:00 AM –9:50

Room TK

Why do some people thrive while others fail in high-stakes situations? Why do poor performances occur just when students are set on doing their best? What cognitive and neural processes drive less-than-optimal outcomes when the pressure is high? In her talk, Sian L. Beilock of the University of Chicago will discuss behavioral and brain imaging work examining how students’ knowledge and general cognitive abilities interact with social and emotional factors (for instance, a student’s fear of test taking) to influence performance in academic arenas such as math. From kindergarten through graduate school, testing not only measures performance but often determines destiny. A deeper understanding of the complicated mix of brain wiring, cognition, society and emotions can potentially lead to higher levels of performance in a testing situation.

Sian L. Beilock, Association Professor of Psychology, University of Chicago –

Saturday, May 26, 10:30 AM -10:55


Teachers, show your students what they’re missing when they text during your lecture. Many students believe that they are “good” multitaskers whose learning is not hindered, but Tara T. Lineweaver and Amanda C. Gingerich from Butler University provide empirical evidence that texting during class disrupts comprehension of lecture material. They will also present an in-class demonstration that instructors can use to reveal multitasking-induced impairment.

Amanda C. Gingerich, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Butler University –

Thursday, May 24, 2:15 PM-3:15PM


News media may register to attend the conference for free at

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