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Weak central coherence, poor joint attention, and low verbal ability : independent deficits in early autism

Durkin, K. (2003) Weak central coherence, poor joint attention, and low verbal ability : independent deficits in early autism. Developmental Psychology, 39 (4). pp. 635-656. ISSN 0012-1649

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Abstract

C. Jarrold, W. Butler, E. M. Cottington, and F. Jiminez (2000) proposed that weak central coherence is a primary cognitive deficit in autism and speculated that it may even account for theory of mind impairments. The current study investigated whether weak central coherence could account for deficits in 2 behaviors purported to tap capabilities fundamental to a theory of mind: joint attention and pretend play. Twenty-one children (ages 3-5 years) with autism spectrum disorders were matched to 21 control children on chronological age, nonverbal ability, and gender. Pretend play did not differentiate the groups. Weak central coherence, poor joint attention, and low verbal ability contributed significantly and independently to the prediction of autism group membership, a finding consistent with 3 independent cognitive deficits underlying autism.