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Behav. Sci. 2012, 2(4), 207-218;

Working Memory, Language Skills, and Autism Symptomatology

Division of Neuropsychology, Department of Neurology-FWC, Medical College of Wisconsin, 9200 West Wisconsin Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53226, USA
Department of Psychology, University of Connecticut, 406 Babbidge Road, U-1020, Storrs, CT 06269, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 10 August 2012 / Revised: 23 September 2012 / Accepted: 12 October 2012 / Published: 2 November 2012
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Learning and Memory Deficits Related to Neuropsychiatric Disorders)
PDF [269 KB, uploaded 2 November 2012]


While many studies have reported working memory (WM) impairments in autism spectrum disorders, others do not. Sample characteristics, WM domain, and task complexity likely contribute to these discrepancies. Although deficits in visuospatial WM have been more consistently documented, there is much controversy regarding verbal WM in autism. The goal of the current study was to explore visuospatial and verbal WM in a well-controlled sample of children with high-functioning autism (HFA) and typical development. Individuals ages 9–17 with HFA (n = 18) and typical development (n = 18), were carefully matched on gender, age, IQ, and language, and were administered a series of standardized visuospatial and verbal WM tasks. The HFA group displayed significant impairment across WM domains. No differences in performance were noted across WM tasks for either the HFA or typically developing groups. Over and above nonverbal cognition, WM abilities accounted for significant variance in language skills and symptom severity. The current study suggests broad WM limitations in HFA. We further suggest that deficits in verbal WM are observed in more complex tasks, as well as in simpler tasks, such as phonological WM. Increased task complexity and linguistic demands may influence WM abilities. View Full-Text
Keywords: Autism; working memory; executive functioning; language Autism; working memory; executive functioning; language

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Schuh, J.M.; Eigsti, I.-M. Working Memory, Language Skills, and Autism Symptomatology. Behav. Sci. 2012, 2, 207-218.

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