Getting inside the world of autism: Implications of social cognitive problem solving skills on aggressive behavior
Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder characterized by impairments in language and social communication, accompanied by stereotyped, repetitive behaviors. Children with autism often demonstrate behavioral difficulties which may take the form of noncompliance, self-injurious behavior or physical aggression, among others. This study set out to examine the ability of a child with autism to process social information, and how that ability relates to the occurrence of physically aggressive behavior. Social information processing was conceptualized as a set of executive functions, which can generally be defined as a set of skills which allow an individual to organize behavior into meaningful action. A sample of adolescent boys from a residential treatment facility was divided into two groups: an autism/mental retardation group (A/MR) and a mental retardation (MR) group. The Behavioral Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF) was used to assess caregivers' ratings of levels of functioning on two general domains of executive skills; metacognition and behavioral regulation. It was hypothesized that the A/MR group would demonstrate greater deficiency across executive functioning skills, and that these deficiencies would lead to higher levels of physical aggression. Results suggest that while children with A/MR did engage in significantly more aggressive acts as compared to the MR group. Ratings of executive functioning abilities did not differ significantly from children with only an MR diagnosis.