, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 101-114

Sustained attention in children with autism

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Although many children with early infantile autism cannot maintain attention to externally imposed tasks, they may continue a repetitive behavior of their own choosing for long periods of time. This study examined the performance of autistic and mental age matched normal children on a Continuous Performance Test of sustained attention. Results suggest that autistic children's difficulties in sustaining attention on imposed tasks may be attributable partly to a developmental delay and partly to the motivational contingencies of task rather than to a primary impairment in the ability to sustain attention.

This project was supported by an NIMH grant MH 28605 to L. Waterhouse and D. Fein. We appreciate the cooperation of the staff and students of League School, Newton, Massachusetts, and the Nazarene Child Care Center in Beverly, Massachusetts. We gratefully acknowledge the help of Hope Trefry, Dot Lucci, Kaye Cook, and Kathleen Sheber with data gathering and analysis. Ross Rizley, Anne Copeland, Jaqueline Liederman, and Leslie Brody of the Boston University Graduate Program in Psychology provided helpful comments at every stage of this project.