Weak Central Coherence in Autism Over the Preschool Years
Degree awarded: Ph.D. Psychology. American University
This study investigated the developmental process of weak central coherence in preschoolers with autism by examining the longitudinal stability of their cognitive profiles utilizing the Brief IQ subtests of the Leiter-R. It was found that young preschoolers with autism (mean age=41.7 months) did not evidence specific strengths and weaknesses within their cognitive profile, suggesting a flat profile of comparable nonverbal abilities. In contrast, at Time 2 (18 months later), children with autism showed significant relative strengths on Form Completion and significant relative weaknesses on Sequential Order. Findings indicated that an uneven pattern of strengths and weaknesses in cognition found in previous research on individuals with autism, namely strengths in nonverbal perceptual versus nonverbal conceptual skills, which are proxies for WCC, are evident for older preschoolers (mean age= 59.7 months), but not yet present 18 months earlier. The results are interpreted as lending support for an important developmental process occurring over the preschool years for children with autism, which may have implications for intervention.
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