Kelsey A Clayback



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This study examined executive functioning (EF) skills of children ages 3 to 6 (M = 53.85 months; SD = 10.79 months) with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder (HFASD) compared to a control group of typically developing peers. Previous research has inconsistently noted EF deficits in children with HFASD compared to children with typical development (Corbett, Constantine, Hendren, Rocke & Ozonoff, 2009; Happé, Booth, Charlton & Hughes, 2006). This research sought to further examine EF in children with HFASD. Methods used to evaluate EF in both groups included the Day/Night Task (Gerstadt, Hong, & Diamond, 1994) to measure inhibitory control, the Dimensional Change Card Sort (DCCS; Zelasko, 2006) to measure attentional shift and Corsi Blocks (Berch, Krikorian, & Huha, 1998) to measure working memory. Participants included children with HFASD (N = 12) ages 4 to 6 (M = 66.67 months; SD = 9.60 months) attending a clinical treatment program. A diagnosis of ASD was determined clinically using the ADI-R (total ADI-R M = 36.83; SD = 9.06); high-functioning was determined by an IQ greater than 70 measured by the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children IV (M = 103.25; SD = 11.76). Additionally, participants included a comparison group of preschoolers (N = 57) ages 3 to 5 (M = 51.16 months; SD = 8.99 months) recruited from a midwestern metropolitan area. We controlled for age, gender and verbal abilities. Results indicated deficits in cognitive flexibility/attentional shift in the HFASD group when controlling for age, gender and language [F(1, 64) = 12.777, p < .001]. Differences in inhibitory control [F(1, 64) = .466, p = .497] and working memory [F(1, 64) = .255, p = .619] were not significant.This research has implications for the future direction of research on HFASD. Specifically, future research should further consider the nature of deficits in EF in order to better understand EF development in HFASD. Additionally, these research findings have implications for treatment and target skills for children with HFASD.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Honors Thesis - Undergraduate

Primary Advisor

Mary Fuhs

Primary Advisor's Department



Stander Symposium project

Executive Functioning Skills in Preschoolers with High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder Compared to Typically Developing Peers