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Study Supports Need for School-Age Resources

By Mark N. Ziats on May 2, 2013


Background: Previous research has shown that children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) have deficits in executive functioning, such as poor impulse control, problems maintaining working memory, and difficulty quickly shifting between tasks. Studies of executive functioning in children with ASD have typically been conducted in artificial laboratory settings and fail to follow children over the course of their development. The real-world pattern and development of executive function deficits in children with ASD remains unclear.


What’s new: A recent study published in the January 2013 issue of the journal Neuropsychology investigates executive function in children with ASD at home and across a broad developmental period spanning 5 to 18 years of age. The authors report that executive functioning impairments increase as children with ASD age, as compared to neurotypical children, according to data collected from parental reports on 185 children with ASD.  This was most profound in “metacognitive” abilities, such as following multistep directions, keeping school materials organized, and exhibiting self-motivational behavior.


Why it’s important: According to this study, children with ASD have increasing difficulty in working memory, initiation, and organization as they develop to ages where they are entering school and obtaining jobs.  These situations likely exacerbate these impairments, making continuing executive function intervention and support critical during these periods.  Awareness of this problem is particularly relevant in this age group because school and clinical resources are often not as accessible to children with ASD at these ages.

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