Matthews, Robb Nelson (2011-12). Autism Spectrum Disorders: The Interaction of Symptoms and Executive Skills. Doctoral Dissertation.
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are one form of neurodevelopmental disruption that negatively impacts the integration of perceptual, affective and neuroregulatory mechanisms of typical development. Individuals with ASDs categorically demonstrate difficulties with organizing their thoughts/emotions/actions and applying them in a goal directed manner. The neurobiological deficits underlying cognitive and behavioral disorganization are termed executive functioning (EF) skills deficits. This study sought to clarify the association between the defining characteristics of ASDs and their expression in general behavior and EF skills, using parent and teacher ratings. Results of this study indicated that the association between the Behavior Assessment System for Children, Second Edition (BASC-2) and the symptoms of ASDs as measured by the Autism Spectrum Rating Scale (ASRS) varied by rater, with few clinical scales explaining significant variance in the ASRS outcomes. Additionally, the strongest relationship between the BASC-2 Developmental Social Disorders content scale (DSDCS) and the ASRS Scales was in behavior regulation rather than the social domain. Using the ASRS Scales as predictors of executive skills issues was generally stronger for teachers than parents. Only difficulties on the Self-Regulation Scale were consistently predictive of difficulties with Metacognition Index (MI) across parent and teacher ratings. The results give direction with regard to identifying behavioral and ecologically relevant cognitive skills and their relationship characteristics of ASDs.