Date of Award

Summer 8-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling and Psychological Services

First Advisor

Kris Varjas, Psy.D.

Second Advisor

Diana L. Robins, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

T. Chris Oshima, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

L. Juane Heflin, Ph.D.


Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) affect 1 in every 88 U.S. children. ASDs have been described as neurological and developmental disorders impacting visual, motor, and visual-motor integration (VMI) abilities that affect academic achievement (CDC, 2010). Forty-five participants (22 ASD and 23 Typically Developing [TD]) 8 to 14 years old completed the Bender-Gestalt Test, Second Edition (BG II), Beery-Buktenica Developmental Test of Visual-Motor Integration, 5th Edition (VMI-V), NEPSY Second Edition (NEPSY-II), Test of Visual Perceptual Skills-3 (TVPS-3), Navon Task, Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement, Second Edition, Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test, Second Edition, Behavior Assessment Scale for Children, Second Edition, and Autism Spectrum Screening Questionnaire. Three hypotheses examined whether students with ASDs were more likely than TD peers to have: (1) a visual processing bias; (2) fine motor difficulties; and (3) VMI difficulties. Additional hypotheses analyzed the relationship between (4) local processing bias and fine motor difficulties on VMI ability and (5) local processing bias, fine motor difficulties, and VMI difficulties on academic achievement. A series oft-tests indicated the TVPS-3 (p=.72), Navon Task (p= .78), BG-II (p = .39), and VMI-V (p = .14) were not significantly different between groups. Students with ASDs demonstrated increased difficulty compared to TD students on the NEPSY-II (p = .01) and slower completion time on the Navon Task (p = .01). Regression analyses for VMI indicated the best predictors for the BG-II (p < .001) were the TVPS-3 and Navon Completion Time; the best predictor for the VMI-V (p< .001) was the TVPS-3. Regression analyses indicated that VMI-V predicted all domains of academic achievement. In addition to VMI-V, fine motor skills related to writing achievement, and BG-II related to math achievement. Based on the results, the speed of processing plays an important role on VMI skills and academic achievement, more so than the local processing bias. Although this study may have been impacted by homogeneity in the participants, it investigates a relationship between visual processing biases, fine motor difficulties, visual-motor integration and academic achievement that has received little attention in the literature. Findings can inform the development of more effective interventions for academic functioning for students with ASDs.