Does executive function training modulate the effectiveness of self-determination intervention and postschool outcomes for adolescents with intellectual disability? An experimental intervention study

  • LUI, Ann (PI)

    Project: Research project

    Project Details


    Self-determination (SD) is evidenced to be a significant predictor of postschool outcomes among individuals with disabilities. Although SD intervention has become an important part of special education services in some countries (Algozzine et al., 2001), recent findings have shown that individuals with intellectual disability (ID) are less self-determined than their typical peers (e.g. Cheak-Zamora et al., 2019). The findings imply that the current practice of promoting SD is not yet optimal and more efforts should be made to identify factors contributing to effective SD intervention.

    Skills that are taught during SD interventions include self-advocacy, goal setting, self- monitoring, decision-making, problem-solving, and planning (Algozzine et al., 2001; Karvonen, et al., 2001). Individuals with ID face challenges in higher-order cognitive tasks in everyday activities (Schalock, et al., 2010). This leads to a research question about whether ID poses a limit on the development of SD, since SD involves mental processes that can be intellectually demanding. We propose that executive functions (EFs) contribute to a person’s capacity to become self-determined. EF refers to higher-order processes necessary to coordinate many cognitive activities, including working memory, inhibition, and cognitive flexibility (Diamond, 2013). These cognitive processes are necessary for purposeful and goal- directed behavior (Baddeley, 1996), which coincide with self-determined behaviors. Our proposed study therefore examines the effect of EF training on the development of SD among adolescents with ID. We will adopt a computerized program that trains users in multiple components of EFs. For SD intervention, a systematic curriculum will be employed to promote SD through classroom learning. Ninety 16- to 18-year-old students with mild to moderate ID will be pseudo-randomly assigned to three groups: one receiving SD and EF training, one receiving SD training only, and one active control group. Data including SD, EFs, nonverbal IQ, postschool outcomes, and quality of life (QoL) will be collected at different time points throughout the study. We hypothesize that participants who receive both SD and EF training will have significantly higher SD and EF performance at the post-test and 6-month follow-up. They will have higher QoL, income, and employment rate or further education at the one-year follow-up, in comparison with the other groups. In terms of research impacts, the development of evidence-based intervention may lead to higher levels of independence and QoL among individuals with ID in adulthood, which will also benefit their caregivers and families.
    Effective start/end date1/01/2131/05/23

    UN Sustainable Development Goals

    In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

    • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
    • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities


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