Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) appear to experience executive functioning (EF) problems, but there are large
individual differences in EF-profiles in ASD. In the current study the majority of children with ASD (8-12 years) actually
experienced no cognitive flexibility deficits. Working memory (WM) and inhibition deficits were observed, but only few children
showed both. The experienced EF deficits were, however, related to daily life behavior. Moreover, both ASD-traits and EF were
related to QoL of children with ASD.
We studied whether an adaptive WM and cognitive flexibility training (Braingame
Brian) were effective for children with ASD, as compared to a non-adaptive control training. Children in all three conditions
improved. However, compared to the control training, the WM training had only marginal effects on WM and ADHD-characteristics,
and the cognitive flexibility training had only a marginal effect on cognitive flexibility. The EF training did not generalize.
Hence, the currently studied WM and cognitive flexibility training seem no suitable treatments for children with ASD.
exploring whether the training was suitable for specific subgroups of children with ASD, the training effects appeared larger
in children who were more sensitive to rewards, and the WM and cognitive flexibility training seemed more promising for children
with fewer ASD-traits.
In sum, the WM and flexibility training are probably not useful for the majority of the ASD population,
but such a training might be promising for some children with ASD, and given the relation with QoL, EF remains an important
focus of ASD research.