The Relationship Between Inhibition and Social Skills in Children with High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders

Friday, May 18, 2012
Sheraton Hall (Sheraton Centre Toronto)
1:00 PM
R. L. Matchullis, A. McCrimmon, K. Jitlina and A. A. Altomare, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada
Background: Individuals with high functioning autism spectrum disorders (HFASDs) are characterized by severe social skill deficits despite intact cognitive abilities. Executive function (EF) deficits have been implicated in many behaviours demonstrated by individuals with HFASDs, including negative reactions to change, rigidity, and perseveration. However, few studies have been robust in their measurement or specific in their selection of EF type.  Moreover, few researchers have attempted to explore the relationship between specific EF abilities, such as inhibition, and social skill deficits in this population.

Objectives: To investigate the nature of and strength of relationship between inhibitory dysfunction and social skills in children with HFASDs.

Methods: A total of 25 children with HFASD (including Asperger’s syndrome, high functioning autism, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified) between the ages of 8-12 were compared to 25 gender- and age-matched typically developing children on measures of inhibition and social skills. Diagnosis of the clinical sample was confirmed through the use of the ADI-R.  Inhibitory ability was evaluated via both task-based performance measures (Delis Kaplan Executive Functioning System) and standardized parent-report rating scales (Behaviour Rating Inventory of Executive Function). Social skills were evaluated through standardized parent and self-report rating scales (Social Skills Improvement System). Comparisons between the clinical and control groups were conducted followed by correlational analyses within each participant group. 

Results:  Preliminary results indicate significant inhibitory dysfunction and poorer parent-rated social skills in children with HFASD. In addition, a significant moderate negative correlation was found between these domains.

Conclusions:  The importance of a possible relationship between inhibitory ability and social skills in children with HFASD and implications for future research are discussed. Further, the unique nature and practical value of obtaining information on children’s inhibitory ability and social skills through parent-report are highlighted.

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