Executive Functions and Symptom Severity in an Italian Sample of Intellectually Able Preschoolers with Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Giovanni Valeri
  • Laura Casula
  • Eleonora Napoli
  • Paolo Stievano
  • Barbara TrimarcoEmail author
  • Stefano Vicari
  • Teresa Gloria Scalisi
Original Paper


A novel battery (BAFE; Valeri et al. 2015) was used in order to assess three executive function (EF) abilities (working memory, inhibition and shifting) in a sample of 27 intellectually able preschoolers with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) compared with 27 typically developing children matched on age and nonverbal IQ. Differences in EF skills were analyzed in participants with distinct ASD symptom severity. Children with ASD performed worse than typical controls on both set-shifting and inhibition, but not on visuo-spatial working memory. Additionally, children with more severe ASD symptoms showed a worse performance on inhibition than children with milder symptoms. These results confirm the presence of EF deficits and highlight a link between ASD symptoms and EF impairments in preschool age.


Working memory Inhibition Shifting Autism spectrum disorder Preschoolers Executive functions 


Author Contributions

GV, LC, EN, PS, BT, SV, and TGS have made substantial contributions to conception and design, acquisition of data, analysis and interpretation of data, have been involved in drafting the manuscript and revising it critically for important intellectual content and have given final approval of the version to be published.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Neuroscience, Child Neuropsychiatric Unit, Bambino Gesù Children’s HospitalRomeItaly
  2. 2.Azienda Sanitaria Locale ROMA 2RomeItaly
  3. 3.Department of Social and Developmental PsychologySapienza University of RomeRomeItaly

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