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Acta Neurológica Colombiana

Print version ISSN 0120-8748

Abstract

TALERO-GUTIERREZ, Claudia et al. Autism spectrum disorder and executive functions. Acta Neurol Colomb. [online]. 2015, vol.31, n.3, pp.246-252. ISSN 0120-8748.

Introduction: executive function disturbances, especially in cognitive flexibility planning, inhibitory control and working memory constitute a cardinal element within the manifestations of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Objective: the aim of this research was to evaluate the performance of executive function tests in children with ASD. Materials and methods: an observational study was conducted in children attending a rehabilitation institution. An analysis between the performance of the Childhood Neuropsychological assessment subtests, scores of CARS (Childhood Autism Rating Scale) and other variables was performed by a Spearman correlation test. The study was approved by the Institutional Ethics Committee and parental consent was obtained. Results: we evaluated eight children with a mean age of 8.9 years (min: 6.1, max: 13.7) and CARS score between 32 and 46. Better performance was found in graphical abilities, less in graphical and verbal fluency and in cognitive flexibility. Age was directly correlated with scores on working memory and planning. A high CARS score was correlated with poor performance on cognitive flexibility, working memory and non-semantic graphic fluency. Conclusion: children with ASD are prone to show disturbances in executive functions related tasks which may explain the inflexible adherence to routines, the persistence of stereotypical behaviors and the perseveration observed in ASD patients. This dysfunction correlates with the severity of autism and varies with age. Although this condition is not present exclusively in ASD, it is a factor to consider when evaluating children with autism.

Keywords : Autism Spectrum Disorder; Child Neuropsychological Evaluation (ENI); Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS); Executive Function (MeSH).

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