Doctoral Candidate Texas A&M University Bryan, Texas
Rationale: Neurocognitive deficits and academic underachievement are well known consequences of childhood epilepsy. Central to academic success, understanding the development of reading at the skill level (i.e., word recognition, fluency, decoding) might provide greater understanding of reading and learning in children with epilepsy and inform specific interventions. Additionally, investigating neurocognitive factors that may lead to reading impairments may help predict impairments and forecast school underachievement (Reilly & Neville, 2011). Evidence for semantic memory impairments in literacy skills (Lah & Smith, 2014) provide this possible neurocognitive indicator and could serve as a target area for intervention. Through secondary analysis of existing longitudinal data on children with new/recent onset epilepsies, the purpose of this study is to examine reading accuracy skills longitudinally compared to typically developing youth, as well as investigate neurocognitive abilities associated with semantic memory. Methods: Participants (N=112) were aged 7-18 years, comprised of 39 age-matched controls and 73 new/recent-onset epilepsy. The control group was comprised of age- and sex-matched first-degree cousins of the epilepsy participants, with no clinical history. Children underwent comprehensive neuropsychological testing that included measures of academic achievement (selective subtests from Woodcock-Johnson Test of Achievement, Third Edition (WJT) and Wide Range Achievement Test, Third Edition (WRAT-3)) and language (Vocabulary subtest of the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI) and Expressive Vocabulary Test (EVT)) at baseline and two years later. Results: Data were analyzed through a series of 2x2 (group by time) ANCOVAs with age covariate. Significant (p < 0.05) main effects of time were observed for WJT, WRAT-3, WASI, and EVT with significantly better performance at follow up. Significant main effects of group were observed for WASI with the epilepsy group performing worse than controls at each time point, regardless of age. Additionally, WJT Reading Fluency was observed significantly worse in the epilepsy group at follow-up, regardless of age. Conclusions: Children with newly diagnosed epilepsy show abnormalities in reading skills and aspects of semantic memory that persist over two years, despite developmental gains. In particular, verbal knowledge abnormalities observed in children with epilepsy likely impact the the development of basic reading skills such as reading fluency several years later. Identification of language and reading skills at baseline with appropriate intervention is needed to ameliorate the impact epilepsy on learning disorders and overall quality of life.
References: Lah, S., & Smith, M. L. (2014). Semantic and episodic memory in children with temporal lobe epilepsy: Do they related to literacy skills? Neuropsychology, 28, 113-122. Reilly, C., & Neville, B. G. R. (2011). Academic achievement in children with epilepsy: A review. Epilepsy Research, 97, 112-123. Funding: Please list any funding that was received in support of this abstract.: None.