A Comparison of working memory in low-functioning children with autism and children with non-specific developmental delay
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A sequential learning task was used to investigate the existence of a specific working memory profile in 14 autistic participants (aged 6-12 years). Their performance was compared to 11 chronologically age-matched children and 11 IQ-matched children (with non-specific developmental disorder). The task successfully engaged all children and allowed in-depth analysis of working memory through sub-division of the participants into high-scoring and low-scoring according to their performance. Results showed the high-scorers to have ‘intact’ working memory and to be indistinguishable by group. A further condition of the task allowed investigation into the failures of the low-scorers. In this condition, the task became one of visuo-spatial memory and the improvement highlighted that global working memory problems were not the cause of difficulties on the task. Most measures of performance failed to find any significant differences between the groups, although the NSDD group were found to become more efficient in the non-move condition. This highlights a subtle difference in autistic children’s working memory which needs to be investigated further.