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Cognitive impact on Autism

- 10 min read
written by Shield Connect

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is one of the most heritable of neurodevelopmental conditions, still it continues to be defined as a behavioral syndrome that is based on clinical information from a child’s developmental history and current behavior. The diagnostic criteria are diverse, spanning not only the social domain, but also behaviors in the non-social domain.1 … Continue reading “Cognitive impact on Autism”

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is one of the most heritable of neurodevelopmental conditions, still it continues to be defined as a behavioral syndrome that is based on clinical information from a child’s developmental history and current behavior. The diagnostic criteria are diverse, spanning not only the social domain, but also behaviors in the non-social domain.1

Core Features Of Autism Spectrum Disorder

    • Impairments in social communication, language and related cognitive skills2
    • Behavioral and emotional challenges2

In autism there is an impact on a diverse range of development skills.2

Impairments in Social Communication
Joint attention is the shared focus of two or more individuals on the same object or event. Deficits include2:

    • Difficulty adjusting toward people socially and determining emotional state of self and others
    • Limited range of communicative functions to pursue engagement and comfort from others
    • Limitations in distinguishing and describing another’s emotional state, intention, and perspective

Social reciprocity is the back-and-forth interaction between people, during which the behavior of each person influences the behavior of the other person. Deficits include2:

    • Difficulty initiating bids for interaction and maintaining talks in context and the interests of others
    • Problems responding to interaction initiated by others and recognizing and mending breakdowns in communication
    • Limitations with upholding turn-taking in interactions

Social cognition refers to the psychological processes involved in perceiving, attending to, remembering, thinking about, and making sense of the people in our social world. Deficits include2:

    • Challenges in social and emotional learning, including difficulty in understanding and regulating emotion, in appreciating the perspective of others, in developing pro-social goals, and in using interpersonal skills to handle tasks
    • Difficulty differentiating one’s own feelings from the feelings of others, taking into perspective the language of another person, and modifying the speech accordingly
    • Difficulty incorporating diverse information to construct meaning of the context

Impairments In Language and Related Cognitive Skills

1. Delayed or impaired acquisition of words, word combinations, and syntax, including2

        • Loss of earlier learned words
        • Delayed attainment of words representing social stimuli such as actions and people’s names
        • Use of echolalia (repetition of utterances produced by others)

2. Deficits in use and understanding of nonverbal and verbal communication, including2

        • Delayed use of facial expressions, body language, and gestures as forms of communication in the latter part of the first year of life, remaining unconventional throughout development
        • Use of unconventional gestures (pulling a caregiver’s hand toward an item) prior to or in place of conventional gestures (giving, pointing, and head nods/headshakes)
        • Partial understanding of gaze shifting, distal gestures, facial expressions, and rules of proximity and body language
        • Delayed receptive language than expressive language

3. Vocal development deficits, including2

        • Atypical response to caregiver’s vocalizations and vocal productions
        • Abnormal prosody (patterns of stress and intonation) once speech emerges

4. Symbolic play deficits, including2

        • Delayed acquisition of functional and conventional use of objects
        • Repetitive, inflexible, and less sophisticated and inventive play
        • Limited cooperative play in interactive situations

5. Conversation deficits, including2

        • Limitations in understanding and applying social norms of conversation
        • Provision of inappropriate and unnecessary information or too little detail in conversation
        • Difficulty initiating topics of shared interest and preference for topics of special interest
        • Difficulties in recognizing the need for clarification or adequately repairing miscommunications
        • Problems understanding figurative language, including idioms, multiple meanings, and sarcasm
        • Lack of or limited question asking in conversation

6. Literacy deficits, including difficulty2

        • Reading for meaning or getting the main idea and summarizing
        • Understanding narratives and expository text genres that require multiple perspectives (e.g., persuasive and comparative/contrastive)
        • Providing sufficient information for the reader when writing

7. Executive functioning deficits, including2

          • Lack of or limited flexibility and lack of inhibition
          • Poor problem solving, planning and organization

Behavioral and Emotional Challenges

    • Problems dealing with changes in routine and/or changing from one activity to the next2
    • Problems generalizing learned skills and with self-management2
    • Using objects in unusual ways and uncommon attachments to objects2
    • Crying, becoming angry, or laughing for reason that are difficult to determine as well as difficulty sleeping2
    • Anxiety and/or social withdrawal and/or depression2
    • Using early-developing and/or idiosyncratic strategies for self-regulation (e.g., chewing on clothing, rocking, hand flapping, vocal play)2
    • Using unconventional behavioral strategies and emotional expressions2
    • Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities2

Signs in Girls vs. Boys
Girls with ASD

    • Stay in closer proximity to their peers and are better able to capitalize on social opportunity2
    • Spend more time in joint engagement2
    • Spend more time talking as a primary activity2
    • Appear to use compensatory behaviors to gain access into peer groups2

Boys with ASD

    • Tend to play alone rather than participating in organized games2
    • Spend more time alone2
    • Spend more time wandering as a primary activity2
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