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Executive Functioning Aids the Outcome of Autism

Executive Functioning Aids the Outcome of Autism

According to a study published June 3 in Child Psychology, children and adolescents who outgrow an autism disorder diagnosis as they mature show abilities within the average range for executive functioning; however, they do not perform as well as controls do.

Executive functioning is a term for the group of cognitive processes that direct and regulate our other mental abilities, such as toning down impulsiveness, switching between tasks and following rules.

The new study is part of a larger research project, which found that some people diagnosed with autism in early childhood no longer fit the diagnostic criteria when they’re older. This developmental course has been termed an “optimal outcome” by researchers.

The study included 43 individuals with high-functioning autism, 34 typically developing individuals and 34 people who had outgrown their diagnoses, all ages 8 to 21 years. The participants completed three tests, based on classic psychology measures, such as the Stroop Test and the Tower of Hanoi, that measure aspects of executive functioning. Their parents filled out questionnaires ranking the children’s planning skills, impulsiveness and other qualities involved in executive functioning.

The researchers found that all three groups score in the average range on tests of executive functioning, though participants with high-functioning autism scored lowest. Individuals who have out grown their diagnoses, while similar to typically developing children, fare slightly worse in controlling their impulses and solving problems. Parent assessments suggest these children have small deficits in multitasking and working memory.

Article from: SFARI.org

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