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Autism Research and Treatment
Volume 2012, Article ID 146132, 8 pages
Review Article

The Development of Executive Function in Autism

1Centre for Research in Autism and Education (CRAE), Department of Psychology and Human Development, Institute of Education, London WC1H 0AA, UK
2School of Psychology, University of Western Australia, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia

Received 9 February 2012; Accepted 7 May 2012

Academic Editor: Hilde M. Geurts

Copyright © 2012 Elizabeth Pellicano. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Autism is a common and often highly debilitating neurodevelopmental condition, whose core behavioral features are believed to be rooted in disrupted neurocognitive processes, including especially “executive function.” Researchers have predominantly focused upon understanding the putative causal relationship between difficulties in EF and autistic symptomatology. This paper suggests, however, that the effects of individual differences in EF should be more far-reaching, playing a significant part in the real-life outcomes of individuals with autism, including their social competence, everyday adaptive behavior, and academic achievement. It further considers the nature of the EF-outcome relationship, including the possible determinants of individual differences in EF, and makes several recommendations for future research.