Attentional Performance in Adolescents with ASD in Normal Range of Intelligence
Objectives: The aim of the research was to assess the efficacy of numerous attentional indicators in adolescents in the normal range of intelligence. The performance at attentional processes was examined such as: alerting, orienting to spatial cues, solving cognitive conflicts, visual-spatial search, concentration performance, and selectivity.
Methods: The following tests were used in the study: The Attention Network Test (ANT), Test of concentration d2 and The Color Trails Test (CTT). The participants were 37 adolescents with ASD, 12-20 years of age, selected from a larger sample, with a Wechsler IQ in the normal range ≥75, and 37 controls. The groups (ASD and control) were matched by chronological age and Full-Scale IQ. The psychiatric diagnosis of autism and Asperger Syndrome was based on the ICD-10 criteria. The diagnosis of ASD was confirmed with use of ADOS-2 and ADI-R.
Results: The results of ANOVA showed significant differences in reaction times between the groups for seven conditions in the ANT: No cue, double cue, spatial cue, center cue, and flanker conditions: Congruent, incongruent, and neutral. The differences in the effects of ANT (alerting, orienting and executive attention) between groups were not revealed. The differences were present between participants with ASD and their counterparts in the Test of Concentration d2 on two indicators: Their ability on Concentration-Performance and Fluctuation Rate. No significant differences between the groups in CTT were found. The second step in the analysis was to select attentional tasks, which would differentiate the most adolescents with ASD from typically developing counterparts. The discriminant function analysis showed that adolescents with ASD differed the most from the control group in the task with the center cue condition in ANT and the task with incongruent flanker. Individuals with ASD reacted slower with these two conditions than their counterparts from the control group. However, the ASD group manifested high efficacy at the indicator from the Test of concentration d2: Total corrected processed.
Conclusions: The results of the discriminant analysis are consistent with the hypothesis of enhanced perceptual capacity and overselectivity for individuals with ASD. Decreased efficacy at orienting attention is typical for children with ASD, however as discriminant analysis shows, adolescents from the study did not seem to differ significantly from typically developed counterparts in orienting attention.