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J Clin Child Psychol. 2000 Dec;29(4):479-92.

Performance-based measures in autism: implications for diagnosis, early detection, and identification of cognitive profiles.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Alabama, Box 870348, Tuscaloosa, AL 35486, USA.


Provides a critical review of performance-based assessment measures in autism. Currently, performance-based measures of autism are being explored in two domains: structured play sessions and cognitive-neuropsychological assessments. Structured play sessions are designed to elicit the behavioral symptoms associated with autism to provide a consistent and valid means of early detection and diagnosis of autism across different evaluators and settings. These structured play sessions provide a supplement to diagnostic instruments based on parental report. Cognitive-neuropsychological tasks have been used to identify possible underlying cognitive impairments in autism including executive function, theory of mind, selective attention, and abstraction. Currently, cognitive tasks are useful in treatment planning but are inappropriate for diagnostic purposes. Important goals for the future will be to integrate parent-report diagnostic interviews and structured play observations and to identify a profile of cognitive impairments that are specific to pervasive developmental disorders that can be incorporated into diagnostic protocols.

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