Exploratory Study of Executive Function Abilities Across the Adult Lifespan in Individuals Receiving an ASD Diagnosis in Adulthood

Abbott, Patricia; Happe, Francesca and Charlton, Rebecca A. 2018. Exploratory Study of Executive Function Abilities Across the Adult Lifespan in Individuals Receiving an ASD Diagnosis in Adulthood. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 48(12), pp. 4193-4206. ISSN 0162-3257 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

The few studies of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) across adulthood suggest different age-related associations in different aspects of executive function (EF). In this exploratory study we examined EF abilities and self-report autism traits in 134 adults (aged 18-75 years; mean=31 years) with abilities in the normal range, receiving a first diagnosis of ASD. Results suggest that in some EF relying on speed and sequencing (Trails A and B; Digit Symbol), late-diagnosed ASD individuals may demonstrate better performance than typical age-norms. On other EF (Digit Span, Hayling, Brixton tests) age-related correlations were similar to typical age-norms. Different domains of EF may demonstrate different trajectories for ageing with ASD, with patterns of slower, accelerated or equivalent age-related change observed across different measures.

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This work was supported by Goldsmiths University, Research and Enterprise Committee College Research Fund (PI, Charlton) and by an Experimental Psychology Society “Small Grant” (PI, Charlton). We wish to acknowledge and thank all staff at the ADRC, Southampton who contributed to information utilised in this study. We wish to thank all individuals referred to the ADRC for consenting for their information to be utilised in this research. Data presented in this paper was presented as a poster at the International Meeting for Autism Research, May 2017, San Francisco, USA (Charlton, et al.; Executive Function Abilities in Individuals Receiving an Autism Spectrum Diagnosis in Adulthood).


Ageing, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Cognition, Executive Function, Lifespan.

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27 June 2018Accepted
6 July 2018Published Online
December 2018Published

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27 Jun 2018 13:37

Last Modified:

11 Jun 2021 10:38

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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