Attentional capacities in children with autism: is there a general deficit in shifting focus?

J Autism Dev Disord. 1998 Dec;28(6):467-78. doi: 10.1023/a:1026091809650.


Twenty-three children with autism and two control groups completed an attention battery comprising three versions of the continuous performance test (CPT), a digit cancellation task, the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST), and two novel, computerized tests of shifting attention (i.e., the Same-Different Computerized Task and the Computerized Matching Task). Children with autism could focus on a particular stimulus and sustain this focus as indicated by their performance on the digit cancellation task and the CPT. Their performance on the WCST suggested problems in some aspects of shifting attention (i.e., disengaging attention). The autism group performed as well as controls on the Same-Different Computerized Task, however, that required successive comparisons between stimuli. This implies that they could, in fact, shift their attention continuously. In addition, they did not differ from controls on the Computerized Matching Task, an analog of the WCST, suggesting that they do not have a general deficit in shifting attention.

MeSH terms

  • Attention*
  • Autistic Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Autistic Disorder / psychology
  • Child
  • Diagnosis, Computer-Assisted
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychometrics
  • Reference Values
  • Wechsler Scales / statistics & numerical data