Szarko, J., Brown, A., & Watkins, M. (2013). Examiner familiarity effects for children with autism spectrum disorders . Journal of Applied School Psychology , 29 (1), 37–51.

Journal Article

Szarko, J., Brown, A., & Watkins, M. (2013). Examiner familiarity effects for children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Applied School Psychology, 29(1), 37–51.


Autism; Elementary; Examiner familiarity; Intelligence test; K-12; Preschool; U.S. context




The accommodation examined was each student's familiarity with the test examiner who administered the intelligence test.


Participants were 26 students from 6 special education classrooms in preschool (4 classrooms) and Kindergarten (2 classrooms), ranging from 4–7 years old, in a metropolitan school district in the Southeast (U.S.). All participants had been identified with autism or pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) by school teams. Additional demographic data including sex and ethnicity were reported.

Dependent Variable

Participants completed the Psychoeducational Profile-Revised (1990), cognitive performance and cognitive verbal subtests. This test is designed to be specifically appropriate to measure skills for students with autism. Also, observations of test-takers during tests were made by independent observers not aware of test participants' assigned test conditions (familiar or unfamiliar examiner), pertaining to (1) number of examiner prompts, (2) number of items refused by student, and (3) instances of atypical behaviors exhibited.


Comparisons between matched pairs, based in part on demographics and on language functioning and instructional level, yielded that both subtests' mean scores for the students with familiar examiners were significantly higher than the students with unfamiliar examiners. The behavioral observation results showed no significant difference between the groups for the number of examiner prompts nor for the number of items refused; the number of atypical behaviors were significantly lower for the students with familiar examiners yet the researchers indicated that means of less than one per test (for both groups) seemed not significant in practice. Limitations of the study were reported, and future research directions were suggested.