Writing with imagination: the influence of hot and cold executive functions in children with autism characteristics and typically developing peers

Lorna Bourke, Megan Marriott-Fellows, Amanda Jones, Lorna Humphreys, Simon J. Davies, Antonio Zuffiano, Belen Lopez-Perez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The current study investigated the extent cognitive and emotion regulation deficits (i.e., executive functions) associated with autism impact on the development of imagination in writing. Sixty-one children participated in the study (M age = 9 years 7 months, SD = 14 months, 18 female, 43 male), comprising a selected group with autism characteristics (N = 26, M age = 9 years 5 months, SD = 17 months, 4 female, 22 male) and an age-matched group of typically developing children (N = 35, M age = 9 years 8 months, SD = 12 months, 14 female, 21 male). All children undertook assessments of nonverbal cognitive ability, vocabulary knowledge, and perceptual processing speed. Parents also completed an autism spectrum questionnaire based on the social and behavioural characteristics of their children. Cold executive functions were measured, by performance on inhibition (Go–No–Go), sustained attention (Flanker), and cognitive flexibility (attention shifting) tasks. Assessment of hot executive functions included a questionnaire measuring the degree to which the children reported engagement in maladaptive and adaptive emotion regulation strategies. The children wrote an independent story assessed for narrative coherence and number of words written. The interaction between the cognitive cost of attention shifting and developmental group was the main significant predictor of the ability to enrich imaginatively a story from the beginning to the end point. Flexibly shifting the focus of attention between the various tasks and sub-goals of writing is an important skill that benefits typically developing children to a greater extent than children with autism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)935-961
Number of pages27
JournalReading and Writing
Volume33
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 29 Oct 2019

Keywords

  • Autism
  • Executive functions
  • Emotion regulation
  • Narrative coherence
  • Imagination

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