Objectives: To elucidate the relationship between visuospatial processing style and social functioning by comparing profiles of children with Down syndrome with and without features of autism.
Methods: The Leiter International Performance Scale-Revised (Leiter-R) was administered to 36 children with Down syndrome (4-13 years). The Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R) was completed with the parent(s). ADI-R diagnostic algorithms were positive in 12 children and negative in 24. Groups were similar in age, gender, IQ, expressive, and receptive language ability (all p’s>.10). Detail-focused processing style was operationalized via Leiter-R Figure Ground subtest deviation scores, which measure disembedding. Social functioning was measured with ADI-R social domain scores.
Results: Figure Ground deviation scores were correlated with social domain scores for the ADI-positive group, r=.79, p<.002, with greater detail-focused processing related to more autism-like social behaviors. Detail-focused processing was not significantly related to social domain scores for the ADI-negative group, r=-.23, p=.27. These correlations do not appear to be due to restricted ranges, and were significantly different, Z=3.28, p=.0007. Furthermore, deviation scores were not significantly related to overall IQ, receptive, or expressive language (groups separately or combined).
Conclusions: Findings suggest that visuospatial processing style may be developmentally related to social functioning when autism symptoms are present in Down syndrome. These domains may not have the same implications in children with only Down syndrome. This relationship will be examined in children with autism (without Down syndrome) and typical controls to further explore how visuospatial processing impacts social interaction.
Support: AUCD/CDC RTOI 2005-1/2-08