Autism is defined by qualitative deficits in communication, social interaction and restricted patterns of interests and behavior. There are also reported difficulties in the dynamic activation and modification of cognitive processes in response to changes in tasks demands. It is assumed that poor flexible cognition is related to those difficulties. This research aimed to assess and intervene in cognitive flexibility in subjects with autism.
Ten subjects diagnosed with autism by psychiatrists, aged 5y to 13y5m, were assessed in cognitive flexibility through WCST in pretest and in patterns of social interactions, behaviors and communication through ADI-R. An intervention program with 14 to 21 sessions designed to enhance cognitive flexibility through activities of local coherence inference, constructive praxis, attentional shifting, inhibitory control, besides drama games after reading stories. In posttest, they were assessed in WCST and ADI-R. Raw scores of categories completed and perseverative errors and responses were used.
Regarding flexible cognition, perseverative errors and responses were lower in posttest (P = 0.028). Categories completed were improved in posttest (P = 0.049). Total scores on ADI-R were lower in posttest (P = 0.051) and as well as scores on communication abilities (P = 0.033).
The qualitative improvement showed by the individuals of this research concerning flexible cognition and also patterns of restricted behavior, social interaction and communication abilities suggests that individuals with autism can benefit from the development of strategies for the rehabilitation of flexible cognition and more research is suggested with a larger sample among subjects on the autism spectrum.
Disclosure of interest
The authors have not supplied their declaration of competing interest.