Cognition and Drawing in Children with and without Autism Spectrum Disorder




Ten Eycke, Kayla

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Children with autism spectrum disorder show imaginative and representational drawing deficits, despite reports of a “visual thinking style”. I examined whether these two drawing characteristics could be explained by the unique cognitive style of children with autism (specifically, executive dysfunction and a local processing bias). I administered a cognitive/drawing task battery to a group of 24 school-age children with autism and 29 mental age-matched neurotypically developing controls. I expected that better executive function ability would be associated with better imaginative and representational drawing, and that a local processing bias (weak central coherence) would be associated with better representational drawing but worse imaginative drawing. In children with autism, better executive function was associated with better imaginative drawing. Greater central coherence was associated with better representational drawing, but executive function was associated with worse representational drawing. Underlying cognitive components of imaginative and representational drawing were different for the neurotypically developing children. Overall, findings were unexpected, leading to novel theoretical suggestions for the field of autism cognition and drawing research.



Autism Spectrum Disorder, Executive Function, Central Coherence, Representational Drawing, Imaginative Drawing, Cognition