, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 445-460

Examining the Relationship between Executive Functions and Restricted, Repetitive Symptoms of Autistic Disorder

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The executive function theory was utilized to examine the relationship between cognitive process and the restricted, repetitive symptoms of Autistic Disorder (AD). Seventeen adults with AD were compared to 17 nonautistic controls on a new executive function battery (Delis-Kaplin Executive Function Scales). Restricted, repetitive symptoms were measured by a variety of instruments (i.e., the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised, Gilliam Autism Rating Scale, and the Aberrant Behavior Checklist). The study replicated the executive function profile that has been reported in adults with AD. In addition to the replication findings, the study found several executive processes (i.e., cognitive flexibility, working memory, and response inhibition) were highly related to the restrictive, repetitive symptoms of AD; whereas, other executive process (i.e., planning and fluency) were not found to be significantly correlated with restricted, repetitive symptoms. Similarly, we found an executive function model consisting of relative strengths and deficits was the best predictor of restricted, repetitive symptoms of autism. The implications for the executive function theory and how the theory predicts core symptoms of autism are discussed.