Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Applied Developmental Psychology



Major Professor

Dr. Tracey Knaus

Second Advisor

Dr. Elliott Beaton

Third Advisor

Dr. Matthew Scalco

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Sarah Black

Fifth Advisor

Dr. Kristin Callahan


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impairments in social communication and interaction, with repetitive behaviors or specialized interests. A range of language abilities is seen in ASD, with some having typical abilities and others severe impairments. Working memory (WM) deficits have also been found in some children with ASD. In typically developing, as well as non-ASD children with language deficits a strong relationship has been found between WM and language abilities. Although both language and WM deficits are often seen in ASD, the relationship between these deficits has been underexplored. The objective of this study is to investigate the relationship between WM and language in children with ASD. Aim 1 looks at associations between WM and language abilities in a sample of children with ASD. It was hypothesized that there would be a relationship between these abilities, such that children with WM deficits would also show impairments in language and stronger WM would be associated with better language abilities. Results indicated that children with WM deficits showed impairments in language, and there was a relationship between WM and better communication skills. In Aim 2, neuroanatomical correlates of WM and connectivity with language regions in a sample of children with ASD with and without language deficits were examined. It was hypothesized that children with language impairments would have smaller volume of a WM region and that this region would have reduced connections with language-related cortical regions compared to children without language impairments. Results indicated a relationship between language and brain volume of these regions. However, reduced connections between the language and WM regions were identified in a severe language group. Additionally, we found evidence of associations between language scores and these connections.


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