Measuring executive function in children with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders: What is ecologically valid?

Ayla Humphrey, Ofer Golan, Barbara A. Wilson, Sara Sopena

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Clinical experience and anecdotal written accounts suggest that school-age children with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have difficulties which can be described as ‘executive dysfunction’. Problems with organisation, planning and task completion impede academic achievement and cause disruption in daily routine. The authors review research of executive function in this population and conclude that clinicians will find little in the scientific literature to guide them in neuropsychological assessment and remediation. They describe their study of 23 clinic-referred children (18 boys, 5 girls; mean age of 9) illustrating the challenges facing clinicians who would measure executive function. Tests of executive function (including the NEPSY and the BADS-C) were administered. Parent and Teacher questionnaires (DEX-C, BRIEF and VABS) were completed. Scores on tests of executive function and other areas of cognition were found to be in the average or above average range. In contrast, responses on both teacher and parent questionnaires indicated significant executive dysfunction. Parents' responses on the BRIEF and on the DEX-C were not correlated with teacher responses on the BRIEF. The authors consider the importance of a “halo effect” on questionnaire responses and challenge the notion that questionnaire measures have more ecological validity than laboratory measures. Suggestions for future research include observation, interviews and graded modification of the testing environment. <bold>Introduction</bold> Not enough attention is given to identifying individual neuropsychological deficits of children with ASD in the clinical setting with the aim of remediation despite being recommended by the National Autism Plan for Children (2003).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResearching the Autism Spectrum
Subtitle of host publicationContemporary Perspectives
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9780511973918
ISBN (Print)9780521518963
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2011

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Cambridge University Press 2011.


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