Nonverbal, rather than verbal, functioning may predict cognitive flexibility among persons with autism spectrum disorder: A preliminary study

Colin Andrew Campbell, Natalie Russo, Oriane Landry, Anna Maria Jankowska, Emily Stubbert, Sophie Jacques, Jacob A. Burack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Background Cognitive flexibility may not be as impaired in persons with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as expected by the clinical criterion of repetitive and perseverative behaviors (APA, 2013) and by their verbal abilities. In typically developing (TD) children and other groups, the development of cognitive flexibility is tightly linked to verbal development. However, nonverbal abilities may better predict cognitive flexibility in children with ASD because of their unique pattern of cognitive strengths and weaknesses. Method We examined the relative influences of chronological age (CA), performance mental age (PMA), and verbal mental age (VMA) on cognitive flexibility as measured by performance on the Flexible Item Selection Task (FIST) among a group of 27 individuals with ASD with a wide range of IQs. The Leiter-R and PPVT-III estimated PMA and VMA, respectively. Results Partial correlations indicated that PMA, but not VMA, related to switching performance on the FIST. Conclusion Findings highlight the potential unique role of nonverbal abilities as a contributing factor to the development of cognitive flexibility among individuals with ASD. Nonverbal abilities may better support the development of cognitive flexibility in this particular population perhaps because their limited verbal abilities cannot contribute effectively to other cognitive processes such as cognitive flexibility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-25
Number of pages7
JournalResearch in Autism Spectrum Disorders
Volume38
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017

Keywords

  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Cognitive flexibility
  • Executive function
  • Mental age
  • Nonverbal abilities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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