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Neurocogntive and adaptive functioning in children with austism spectrum disorder and comorbid attention problems

1 January 2016


Research indicates that children with ASD and children with ADHD have deficits in their neurocognitive and adaptive functioning; however, little research has been conducted with children who have both of these neurodevelopmental conditions. This study aimed to investigate whether children with ASD and comorbid attention problems have more neurocognitive and adaptive deficits than children with ASD, ADHD, or another mental health disorder. Five hundred and eighty-seven children from an autism clinic (82.6 % male; 17.4% female; mean age = 119.21) completed cognitive (Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales, Fifth Edition) and adaptive measures (Adaptive Behavioral Assessment Scales, Second Edition or Vineland Adaptive Behavior System, Second Edition). Children with ASD and comorbid attention problems were found to have significantly lower communication and social skills (p = .006), overall adaptive skills (p = .024), and nonverbal IQ (p = .031) than the ASD only group. Working memory and verbal comprehension differences were not found (p = .414). The results of this study suggest that children with ASD and comorbid attention problems have similar verbal comprehension and working memory abilities compared to children with a solo diagnosis of ASD, ADHD, or another mental health condition. However, they are likely to have greater adaptive and nonverbal deficits that may require enhanced intervention to address their overall functioning. Overall, this study suggests that these two diagnoses of autism and ADHD produce greater challenges for children when they co-occur, and therefore are important to consider in combination to enhance outcomes for these youth.


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