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Res Autism Spectr Disord. 2013;7(1):9-16. Epub 2012 Aug 13.

Do Social Attribution Skills Improve with Age in Children with High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders?

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Children's National Medical Center, Washington, DC, USA.


Age-related changes in social attribution skills were assessed using the "Triangles Playing Tricks" task in 7-17 year old high functioning children with ASDs (n=41) and in typically developing (TD) children (n=58) matched on age, IQ, and sex ratio. Children with ASDs gave responses that received lower intentionality and appropriateness ratings than did TD children in both the goal-directed and theory of mind (ToM) conditions. Results remained unchanged when the effects of verbal output (i.e., number of clause produced) and verbal IQ were included as covariates in the analyses. Whereas age was highly associated with ToM performance in the TD children, this relationship was not as strong among children with ASDs. These results indicate not only a diminished tendency among high functioning children with ASDs to attribute social meaning and intentionality to ambiguous visual displays of interactive forms but also an aberrant developmental trajectory. That is, children with ASDs may fall further behind their typically developing peers in social attribution abilities as they get older.

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