Approximately 50% of children with ASDs have associated cognitive disabilities.
This may include intellectual disability, learning disabilities, learning style
weaknesses or splinter or savant skills. The prevalence of cognitive
disabilities has been decreasing. this is presumably due to a larger number of
children with high functioning ASDs being diagnosed as well as successful
learning strategies that are improving the learning and intellectual trajectory
for these children. Additionally, most educators believe early intervention and
an earlier diagnosis are also reasons for improved intellectual outcome and
decreased additional coexisting intellectual conditions.
A profile of uneven skills is a hallmark of the psycho educational profile of children with
ASDs. They frequently are delayed in some areas yet advanced in others.
Exceptional skills are often seen in the areas of music, memory, calculations or
art. Many of these skills are considered splinter skills and serve no purpose in
terms of day to day activities. With support and training, however, these
interests and skills can provide long term job opportunities if they are
fostered and managed.
In terms of attention children with ASDs show a functional deficiency yet they often have exceptional focusing ability. They may also have remarkable abilities to focus and mine down to specific targets yet overall frequent executive function deficiencies are seen in the areas of selective, shifting and sustained attention.
Children with ASDs often reveal a sensitivity to sound called hyperacusis;but, this is not unique to children with ASDs and is also seen in children with other developmental
disabilities. What is unique, however, is a pattern of over and under reactivity
to stimuli in the same sensory modality. They may be very aware of the sound of
a washing machine yet they show little interest in a person’s voice. They may
be very aware of small pieces of lint on a carpet but not notice people entering
or leaving a room. Other examples include a heightened sensitivity to the smooth
tactile sensation of satin on the side of a blanket but an aversion to being
held or hugged. From an opposite direction they may be soother by a firm hug but
agitated when the back or arm are stroked. Similarly oral sensations and
textures that are tolerated, enjoyed or disliked are highly variable. Clothing
is another often described variable sensory response. Some fabrics are more
tolerated than others as is the tightness and tactile character of various
fabrics. The seams on socks and the waistband on pants as well as sleeve length,
pant length and the tightness of shoe laces are all prone to hypersensitivity
and hypo sensitivity.
Lastly, motor patterns are also atypical, uneven and unusual. Delays in motor planning are typical as are poor coordination and deficits in motor planning, motor execution and motor sequencing. These children tend to also have attention profiles that meet the criteria of an associated attention deficit disorder even tough the present DSM-IV-R criteria exclude the diagnosis of ADHD in children with and ASD.