Executive Functioning in Struggling Readers: The NIH Examiner
Halverson, Kelly Kathryn
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Executive functioning (EF) is an important domain general control process implicated in the development of successful reading. While a number of previous studies have investigated the role of EF in children with reading difficulties (RD), results have been mixed due to lack of clarity within the domain and varied assessment methods. In the present study, we investigated the role of EF in a large group (n = 355) of 4th, 5th and 6th grade students with RD. To characterize EF, we utilized the NIH Executive Abilities: Measures and Instruments for Neurobehavioral Evaluation and Research (NIH EXAMINER), a novel, short yet comprehensive, and free assessment. We investigated how the broad domain of EF is related to reading on three levels: word reading, reading fluency and reading comprehension, and for the latter, considered the impact of inference making. Results indicated relations of EF to reading consistent with prior work (average r = .26) with this novel measure. Multivariate multiple regression analyses compared the contribution of EF across all reading outcomes in a single model. Results revealed an overall effect of EF on reading, p < 0.001, and significant differences between fluency and comprehension, p < 0.001, and between decoding and comprehension, p = 0.014, but not between fluency and decoding, p = 0.062. The relation of EF to reading comprehension was fully mediated by inference making, and both indirect effects (short and long textual distance) were significant, although they were not significantly different from each other. Results may aid the development of specific reading interventions which consider the important and unique structure and role of EF in struggling readers.