A review of: Koyama, T., Kamio, Y., Inada, N., Kurita, H. (2008). Sex Differences in WISC-III Profiles of Children with High-functioning Pervasive Developmental Disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders DOI: 10.1007/s10803-008-0610-6
Previous studies on IQ profiles among children with high functioning autism have usually revealed a pattern of performance characterized by lower scores on the comprehension subtest and higher scores on the block design subtest. Deficits in the comprehension subtest have been thought to reflect difficulties understanding social contexts, while above average performance on the block design test may reflect a “detailed-focus cognitive style.” However, there are no published studies examining possible sex differences in cognitive performance on IQ test among children with high functioning autism.
In this study, the author compared 26 girls (mean age 8.2) and 116 boys (mean age 9.0) meeting diagnostic criteria for PDD based on the ICD-10 (the study was conducted in Japon). The children were tested using a Japanese version of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Third Edition. The authors did not find significant differences in total IQ scores (average 97.9 for girls and 96 for boys) or scores on the Verbal (average 99.4 for girls and 94.8 for boys) or Performance subscales (average 96.6 for girls and 98.2 for boys). However, girls performed significantly better than the boys on subtests of processing speed, coding, and symbol search, while the boys performed significantly better than the girls on the block design subtest. Performance on the comprehension subtest was the most clear relative weakness for both boys and girls.
The high performance by girls on coding and symbol search does not represent greater visual-motor skills when compared to boys, as boys outperformed girls on the block design – a test also highly dependent on visual-motor functioning. Thus, it is more likely that the sex differences in coding and symbol search are due to faster processing speed by girls, just as indicated by the processing speed index.
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