Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, 35:729

First online:

Spatial Cognition in Autism Spectrum Disorders: Superior, Impaired, or Just Intact?

  • Jamie O. EdginAffiliated withUniversity of DenverDepartment of Education, University of Canterbury Email author 
  • , Bruce F. PenningtonAffiliated withUniversity of Denver

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The profile of spatial ability is of interest across autism spectrum disorders (ASD) because of reported spatial strengths in ASD and due to the recent association of Asperger’s syndrome with Nonverbal Learning Disability. Spatial functions were examined in relation to two cognitive theories in autism: the central coherence and executive function (EF) theories. Performance on spatial tasks, EFs, and global/local processing was compared in children with ASD and controls. While the ASD group had faster reaction times on the Embedded Figures task, spatial performance was intact, but not superior, on other tasks. There was no evidence for impairments in EF or in processing global/local information, therefore contradicting these two theories. The implications of these results for these two theories are discussed.

Key Words

Autism Asperger’s syndrome spatial cognition executive function central coherence