Development and Psychopathology



Multiple cognitive capabilities/deficits in children with an autism spectrum disorder: “Weak” central coherence and its relationship to theory of mind and executive control


ELIZABETH  PELLICANO  a1 c1 , MURRAY  MAYBERY  a2 , KEVIN  DURKIN  a3 and ALANA  MALEY  a2
a1 University of Oxford
a2 University of Western Australia
a3 University of Strathclyde

Article author query
pellicano e   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
maybery m   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
durkin k   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
maley a   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 

Abstract

This study examined the validity of “weak” central coherence (CC) in the context of multiple cognitive capabilities/deficits in autism. Children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and matched typically developing children were administered tasks tapping visuospatial coherence, false-belief understanding and aspects of executive control. Significant group differences were found in all three cognitive domains. Evidence of local processing on coherence tasks was widespread in the ASD group, but difficulties in attributing false beliefs and in components of executive functioning were present in fewer of the children with ASD. This cognitive profile was generally similar for younger and older children with ASD. Furthermore, weak CC was unrelated to false-belief understanding, but aspects of coherence (related to integration) were associated with aspects of executive control. Few associations were found between cognitive variables and indices of autistic symptomatology. Implications for CC theory are discussed. a


Correspondence:
c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Liz Pellicano, University Section of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Park Hospital for Children, Old Road, Headington, Oxford OX3 7LQ, UK; E-mail: liz.pellicano@psych.ox.ac.uk.


Footnotes

a The authors thank all of the children, families, and teachers for their generous support and participation in this study. Invaluable help with recruitment was provided by Sue Luscombe, Emma Glasson, Kathy Ziatas, various speech pathologists, ISADD, the Autism Association, Therapy Focus, FOCAS, and the Asperger's Syndrome and Second Step support groups. We are also grateful to Western Psychological Services for providing prepublication copies of the SCQ and to the Apex Foundation Trust for Autism for awarding a grant to the first (E.P.) and third authors (K.D.), which funded administration of the Autism Diagnostic Interview—Revised. The second author (M.M.) was supported by Australian Research Council Grant DP0452312.