Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 44, Issue 8, pp 1959–1971 | Cite as

Age Related Differences of Executive Functioning Problems in Everyday Life of Children and Adolescents in the Autism Spectrum

  • Sanne F. W. M. van den Bergh
  • Anke M. Scheeren
  • Sander Begeer
  • Hans M. Koot
  • Hilde M. GeurtsEmail author
Original Paper


Numerous studies investigated executive functioning (EF) problems in people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) using laboratory EF tasks. As laboratory task performances often differ from real life observations, the current study focused on EF in everyday life of 118 children and adolescents with ASD (6–18 years). We investigated age-related and individual differences in EF problems as reported by parents on the Behavioral Rating Inventory Executive Functions (BRIEF: Gioia et al. in Behavior rating inventory of executive function. Psychological Assessment Resources, Odesse 2000), and examined the association with autism severity. Inhibition problems were mostly found in the youngest group (6- to 8-year-olds), whereas problems with planning where more evident for 12- to 14-year-olds as compared to 9- to 11-year-olds. In a subsample of participants meeting the ADOS ASD cut-off criteria the age related differences in planning were absent, while problems with cognitive flexibility were less apparent in 15- to 18-year-olds, compared to 9- to 11-, and 12- to 14-year olds. EF problems surpassing the clinical cutoff were only observed in 20 % (planning) to 51 % (cognitive flexibility) of the children and adolescents, and no relation was found with ASD symptom severity. This underlines the heterogeneous nature of ASD.


ASD Autism severity Behavioral Rating Inventory Executive Functions (BRIEF) Development Executive functioning 



This work was partly funded as part of the research program “Autism and Aging: A Double Jeopardy”, which is financed (personal VIDI grant HM Geurts, No. 452-10-003) by NWO, and was partly financially supported by Stichting Nuts Ohra [SNO-T-0701-116]. The authors would like to thank all children, adolescents, parents and teachers of the Berg en Boschschool who took part in this study.

Supplementary material

10803_2014_2071_MOESM1_ESM.doc (68 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 69 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sanne F. W. M. van den Bergh
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Anke M. Scheeren
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
  • Sander Begeer
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
    • 7
  • Hans M. Koot
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
  • Hilde M. Geurts
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 8
    Email author
  1. 1.Autism Clinic, Research and DevelopmentDr. Leo KannerhuisDoorwerthThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Psychology, Brain and CognitionUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Dutch Autism and ADHD Research Center (d’Arc)AmsterdamThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Department of Developmental PsychologyVU UniversityAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  5. 5.Autism Research Amsterdam (ARA)AmsterdamThe Netherlands
  6. 6.EMGO Institute for Health and Care ResearchAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  7. 7.School of PsychologyUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  8. 8.Cognitive Science Center AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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