One of the key diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder includes impairments in social interactions. This study compared the extent to which boys with high-functioning autism and typically developing boys "value" engaging in activities with a parent or alone. Two different assessments that can empirically determine the relative reinforcing value of social and non-social stimuli were employed: paired-choice preference assessments and progressive-ratio schedules. There were no significant differences between boys with high-functioning autism and typically developing boys on either measure. Moreover, there was a strong correspondence in performance across these two measures for participants in each group. These results suggest that the relative reinforcing value of engaging in activities with a primary caregiver is not diminished for children with autism spectrum disorder.
Keywords: autism spectrum disorder; high-functioning autism; mother–child interaction; preference; progressive-ratio; reward; social; value.