Various studies have examined the role of executive functions in autism, but there is a lack of research in the current literature on cognitive flexibility in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The purpose of this study is to investigate whether cognitive flexibility deficits could be related to facial emotion recognition deficits in ASD.
In total, 20 children with ASD and 20 typically developing children, matched for intelligence quotient and gender, were examined both in facial emotion recognition tasks and in cognitive flexibility tasks through the dimensional change card sorting task.
Despite cognitive flexibility not being a core deficit in ASD, impaired cognitive flexibility is evident in the present research. Results show that cognitive flexibility is related to facial emotion recognition and support the hypothesis of an executive specific deficit in children with autism.
One of the limit is the use of just one cognitive test to measure cognitive flexibility and facial recognition. This could be important to be taken into account in the new research. By increasing the number of common variables assessing cognitive flexibility, this will allow for a better comparison between studies to characterize impairment in cognitive flexibility in ASD.
Investigating impairment in cognitive flexibility may help to plan training intervention based on the induction of flexibility.
If the authors implement cognitive flexibility people with ASD can have also an effect on their social behavior and overcome the typical and repetitive behaviors that are the hallmark of ASD.