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Executive Functioning in High-functioning Children with Autism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 March 2001

Miriam Liss
Affiliation:
University of Connecticut, Storrs, U.S.A.
Deborah Fein
Affiliation:
University of Connecticut, Storrs, U.S.A.
Doris Allen
Affiliation:
Albert Einstein School of Medicine, New York, U.S.A.
Michelle Dunn
Affiliation:
Albert Einstein School of Medicine, New York, U.S.A.
Carl Feinstein
Affiliation:
Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, U.S.A.
Robin Morris
Affiliation:
Georgia State University, Atlanta, U.S.A.
Lynn Waterhouse
Affiliation:
The College of New Jersey, Trenton, U.S.A.
Isabelle Rapin
Affiliation:
Albert Einstein School of Medicine, New York, U.S.A
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Abstract

Executive functioning was investigated in 34 children (24 boys and 10 girls) with developmental language disorder (DLD) and 21 children (18 boys and 3 girls) with high-functioning autistic disorder (HAD) matched on Full Scale IQ, Nonverbal IQ, age (mean age 9 year, 1 month), and SES. The DLD group had a Verbal IQ that was 10 points higher than the HAD group. These children were given the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST), the Mazes subtest from the WISC-R, the Underlining test, and the Rapid Automatized Naming test. In addition, these children were given the Vineland Scales of Adaptive Functioning and the Wing Diagnostic Symptom Checklist in order to assess severity of autistic symptomatology. Results indicated that the only significant difference between the two groups on the cognitive tasks was perseverative errors on the WCST; there was no significant difference on total number of categories achieved or total number of errors on the WCST or on the other executive function measures. There was also significant overlap in the scores between the two groups and the difference in perseverative errors was no longer significant when Verbal IQ was partialled out. Executive functioning was strongly related to all IQ variables in the DLD group and particularly related to Verbal IQ in the HAD group. Although there was a relationship in the HAD group between executive functioning and adaptive functioning, as well as between executive functioning and autistic symptomatology, these relationships were generally no longer significant in the HAD group after the variance due to Verbal IQ was accounted for. The results are interpreted to indicate that although impaired executive functioning is a commonly associated feature of autism, it is not universal in autism and is unlikely to cause autistic behaviors or deficits in adaptive function.

Type
Papers
Copyright
© 2001 Association for Child Psychology and Psychiatry

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