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Executive functions (EF) necessary for purposeful goal-directed activities undergo rapid change and development during the preschool years. However, of the few psychometrically valid measures of EF suitable for use with preschoolers, information on task sensitivity and predictive validity is scant. The neurodevelopmental correlates of early executive difficulties are also largely unknown. In this study, the discriminant and predictive validity of the recently developed Shape School task (Espy, Bull, Martin, & Stroup, 2006) was examined with data from a regional sample of 209 preschool children at age 4 years. A 2-tiered measurement approach was used, with task completion examined in addition to efficiency. Children's performance was also examined in relation to functioning in a range of neurodevelopmental domains. The Shape School task showed some usefulness in capturing expected differences between at-risk and typically developing children. Performance loaded heavily on language and global cognitive abilities. However, several other factors were also implicated, including attention, motor skills, and ocular control. In addition, task completion and efficiency scores appeared to reflect different aspects of performance, and their associations with neurodevelopmental function and later academic achievement on the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement at age 6 years also differed. Implications for the application of the Shape School task are discussed.

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Journal Article

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