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J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2015 Aug;56(8):893-902. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12362. Epub 2014 Nov 24.

Exploring the cognitive features in children with autism spectrum disorder, their co-twins, and typically developing children within a population-based sample.

Author information

1
Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College London, London, UK.
2
South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK.
3
Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College London, London, UK.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

The behavioural symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are thought to reflect underlying cognitive deficits/differences. The findings in the literature are somewhat mixed regarding the cognitive features of ASD. This study attempted to address this issue by investigating a range of cognitive deficits and the prevalence of multiple cognitive atypicalities in a large population-based sample comprising children with ASD, their unaffected co-twins, and typically developing comparison children.

METHODS:

Participants included families from the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS) where one or both children met diagnostic criteria for ASD. Overall, 181 adolescents with a diagnosis of ASD and 73 unaffected co-twins were included, plus an additional 160 comparison control participants. An extensive cognitive battery was administered to measure IQ, central coherence, executive function, and theory of mind ability.

RESULTS:

Differences between groups (ASD, co-twin, control) are reported on tasks assessing theory of mind, executive function, and central coherence. The ASD group performed atypically in significantly more cognitive tasks than the unaffected co-twin and control groups. Nearly a third of the ASD group presented with multiple cognitive atypicalities.

CONCLUSIONS:

Multiple cognitive atypicalities appear to be a characteristic, but not universal feature, of ASD. Further work is needed to investigate whether specific cognitive atypicalities, either alone or together, are related to specific behaviours characteristic of ASD.

KEYWORDS:

Autism spectrum disorder; cognition; executive function; theory of mind; weak central coherence

PMID:
25418509
DOI:
10.1111/jcpp.12362
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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