Residual Cognitive Deficits in Optimal Outcome Children With a History of Autism

Date of Completion

January 2010


Psychology, Clinical|Psychology, Cognitive




Despite the finding that children with autism can and do achieve favorable outcomes (e.g. Lovaas 1987), very few studies have explored this phenomenon in-depth or investigated possible residual cognitive impairment in these children. The current study was designed to assess the neuropsychological functioning of a cohort of children who were once diagnosed with an ASD and have since lost their diagnosis (described as "Optimal Outcome" or OO). Twenty OO children, matched on age and IQ to 23 of their typically-developing peers (TYP) and 15 children with high-functioning autism (HFA) were contrasted on executive functioning (EF), pragmatic language, and face processing performance. Results indicated that OO children scored average on most tasks. Findings also showed no significant differences on examiner-administered EF performance between the three groups, yet significant differences between parent-questionnaire assessment of EF, with the OO group scoring worse than the TYP children, but better than the HFA cohort. Face processing and pragmatic language scores were also different between groups, with the OO group generally performing worse than the TYP group. Preliminary evidence suggests that despite having achieved favorable outcomes and functioning broadly within the average range, OO children may continue to struggle with some areas of EF and social cognition compared to their IQ-matched typically-developing peers. ^