Objectives: 1) To compare EFCS scores between children with ASD and those without ASD (typically developing; TD); and 2) to examine how EFCS scores correlate with computer-based EF measures in a subset of preschool-aged children.
Methods: One hundred and fifty children (ASD=80; TD=70), matched on chronological age (range=3-18 years, M=9.76), were rated by their parents using the BASC-2 PRS.
A subset of thirty-five age- and IQ-matched children (ASD=15; TD=20), 3-6 years old, were also administered an EF battery consisting of computer-based measures of inhibition (e.g., Boy-girl Stroop), planning (Tower of Hanoi), and working memory (Self-ordered Search; Kerns & McInerney, 2007). We predicted that EFCS scores would be associated with performance-based measures of EF; however, specific predictions were not made, as this aspect of the study was exploratory.
Results: Overall, participants with ASD had significantly higher EFCS scores than TD participants, F(1)=41.23, p=.00, indicating that the parents of the children and adolescents with ASD reported higher levels of executive dysfunction. This finding was not related to EF difficulties in individuals with ASD developing over time (Yerys et al., 2007), as the interaction between age group and diagnosis was not significant F(4)=1.58, p>.10. Moreover, in our subset (n=35) of children aged 3-6 years, EFCS score differences were also significant, t(33)=2.69, p<.05, indicating that participants with ASD demonstrated greater executive dysfunction, even at this young age.
Correlational analyses among EFCS scores and EF performance within the subset (n=35) revealed that for children with ASD, EFCS scores were significantly associated (p<.01) with performance on the Stroop task, such that better performance was associated with less executive dysfunction.
Conclusions: We found that participants with ASD had significantly higher EFCS scores than TD participants, indicating greater overall executive dysfunction for the former group. These findings are consistent with those of Sullivan & Riccio (2006), and suggest that the EFCS scale has clinical utility for detecting EF difficulties in the ASD population as early as the preschool years.
With regard to the relations between EFCS scores and performance-based measures of EF, the findings indicate that the EFCS is measuring an aspect of EF that differs from traditional performance-based tasks that investigate EF in a componential way (i.e., inhibition, working memory, and planning). As the EFCS is taken from a measure of day-to-day adaptive functioning, examining EF in this way provides supplementary information from the unique perspective of the parent.
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