The cognitive skills of children with autism may improve over time.

A new study done at the Centre for Research in Autism and Education at the Institute of Education in London compared cognitive skills of 37 children with autism with 31 children who did not have the developmental disorder. Researchers evaluated the children at age 5 through 6 and again three years later.

The children were asked to predict a character's behaviour after watching a video clip, perform a problem-solving task that required planning and flexibility, search for shapes hidden in pictures, and make patterns with wooden blocks. These tests measured the cognitive skills that are most typically affected in autism.

Encouragingly for parents, and in contrast to other studies, many children with autism showed improvement in certain skills over time. For example, most of the children were better able to appreciate other's thoughts and feelings and could better regulate and control their behaviour as they grew older. The extent to which children’s cognitive skills improved was not the same for every child, with some children showing greater progress than others. 

Elizabeth Pellicano. The Development of Core Cognitive Skills in Autism: A 3-Year Prospective Study. Child Development, 2010; 81 (5): 1400


First Published in September 2010

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