Cognitive flexibility and planning processes in Autism spectrum disorder and Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder

Arianna Nicita, Concettina Caparello, Fabiana Nicita, Antonina Viviana Mafodda, Susanna Orecchio, Giuseppa Filippello


Background: ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder which is often in comorbid with other disorder, such as autism spectrum (ASD), hyperactive-impulsive subtype, visual attention deficits and impulsivity. The aim of this research is to underline the differences in the three psychopathological profiles and to investigate whether and how comorbidity with hyperactive syndrome can influence executive performances in children with autistic spectrum disorder.

Methods: Participants in the current study were 60 children aged between 5 and 10 years, equally divided into 4 groups: those with typical development, with high-functioning autism, autism with comorbid ADHD and ADHD. The psychological instruments regard Raven's Colored Progressive Matrices (RPCM), Tower of London (TOL), Modified Card Sorting Test (MCST).

Results: ASD+ADHD group shows worse performance in terms of planning than the other groups involved in the research. The presence of hyperactivity in children with ASD makes cognitive flexibility even worse. ASD+ADHD group has worse executive functioning than children with only ADHD.

Conclusions: This study found that a comorbidity ASD+ADHD makes executive functioning worse in children with ASD, which is already impaired due to the characteristics of the syndrome itself.

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