Women's Health

Cognitive impact on Autism

Written By: Shield Connect

- 8 Min

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.

Core Features Of Autism Spectrum Disorder

·         Impairments in social communication, language and related cognitive skills

·         Behavioral and emotional challenges

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

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

·         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 include:

·         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 include:

·         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, including

·         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, including

·         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, including

·         Atypical response to caregiver’s vocalizations and vocal productions

·         Abnormal prosody (patterns of stress and intonation) once speech emerges

4. Symbolic play deficits, including

·         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, including

·         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 difficulty

·         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, including

·         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 depression

·         Using early-developing and/or idiosyncratic strategies for self-regulation (e.g., chewing on clothing, rocking, hand flapping, vocal play)

·         Using unconventional behavioral strategies and emotional expressions

·         Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities

Signs in Girls vs. Boys
Girls with ASD

·         Stay in closer proximity to their peers and are better able to capitalize on social opportunity

·         Spend more time in joint engagement

·         Spend more time talking as a primary activity

·         Appear to use compensatory behaviors to gain access into peer groups

Boys with ASD

·         Tend to play alone rather than participating in organized games

·         Spend more time alone

Spend more time wandering as a primary activity

Shield Connect

Shield Connect