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Role of Neurocognitive Factors in Academic Fluency for Children and Adults With Spina Bifida Myelomeningocele

  • Paul T. Cirino (a1), Paulina A. Kulesz (a1), Amanda E. Child (a1), Ashley L. Ware (a1), Marcia A. Barnes (a2), Jack M. Fletcher (a1) and Maureen Dennis (a3) (a4)...


Objectives: Fluency is a major problem for individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders, including fluency deficits for academic skills. The aim of this study was to determine neurocognitive predictors of academic fluency within and across domains of reading, writing, and math, in children and adults, with and without spina bifida. In addition to group differences, we expected some neurocognitive predictors (reaction time, inattention) to have similar effects for each academic fluency outcome, and others (dexterity, vocabulary, nonverbal reasoning) to have differential effects across outcomes. Methods: Neurocognitive predictors were reaction time, inattention, dexterity, vocabulary, and nonverbal reasoning; other factors included group (individuals with spina bifida, n=180; and without, n=81), age, and demographic and untimed academic content skill covariates. Univariate and multivariate regressions evaluated hypotheses. Results: Univariate regressions were significant and robust (R2=.78, .70, .73, for reading, writing, and math fluency, respectively), with consistent effects of covariates, age, reaction time, and vocabulary; group and group moderation showed small effect sizes (<2%). Multivariate contrasts showed differential prediction across academic fluency outcomes for reaction time and vocabulary. Conclusions: The novelty of the present work is determining neurocognitive predictors for an important outcome (academic fluency), within and across fluency domains, across population (spina bifida versus typical), over a large developmental span, in the context of well-known covariates. Results offer insight into similarities and differences regarding prediction of different domains of academic fluency, with implications for addressing academic weakness in spina bifida, and for evaluating similar questions in other neurodevelopmental disorders. (JINS, 2019, 25, 249–265)


Corresponding author

Correspondence and reprint requests to: Paul T. Cirino, Department of Psychology, Texas Institute for Measurement, Evaluation, and Statistics (TIMES), University of Houston, Houston, TX 77204. E-mail:


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