Assessing Cognitive Flexibility, Communication, Social Interaction and Interest Patterns of Persons with Autism as a Basis for Intervention


The prevalence of people on the autism spectrum can vary from 1% to 1.5% of the population, nowadays. Besides an adequate diagnosis, specialized treatment offered to these people must be a priority for the public health policies and a target of interest for researchers and health professionals. Autism is characterized by the presence of deficits in communication, social interaction and patterns of restricted interests and repetitive behaviors. One of the theories that explain autism points out to disorders in some higher order functions such as failures in cognitive flexibility, inhibitory control and working memory. In this study, 18 persons with autism were assessed in the areas of non-verbal intelligence, cognitive flexibility besides the affected areas in autism: communication, social interaction and patterns of interests and behavior. The aim was to verify if there was a correlation between failures in cognitive flexibility and the main impairments of the autism spectrum. Raven’s Progressive Matrices, Wisconsin Card Sorting Test—WCST and Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised—ADI-R were used. Although correlation between WCST and ADI-R scores did not reach conventional statistical significance on most categories, the category failure to maintain set (FMS) in WCST and difficulties in social interaction in ADI-R were positively correlated with statistical significance. This result indicates a deficit of focused attention related to the subjects’ inability to successfully perform or maintain a social interaction situation. This would not support the idea that these subjects fail to flexibly shift their focus of attention from one stimulus to the other in a social interaction situation. On the contrary, it seems that they shift their focus of attention constantly, once their inability to maintain set is positively correlated with difficulties in social interaction. Nevertheless, further research with a larger number of subjects is necessary in order to clarify if FMS assesses distractibility or cognitive flexibility.

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Varanda, C. & Fernandes, F. (2015). Assessing Cognitive Flexibility, Communication, Social Interaction and Interest Patterns of Persons with Autism as a Basis for Intervention. Psychology, 6, 387-392. doi: 10.4236/psych.2015.64035.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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