Delineation of a spatial working memory profile using a non-verbal eye tracking paradigm in young children with autism and Williams syndrome Academic Article uri icon


  • Working memory deficits profoundly inhibit children's ability to learn. While deficits have been identified in disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and Williams syndrome (WS), findings are equivocal, and very little is known about the nature of these deficits early in development. A major barrier to advances in this area is the availability of tasks suitable for young children with neurodevelopmental disorders who experience difficulties with following verbal instructions or who are distressed by formal testing demands. To address these issues, a novel eye-tracking paradigm was designed based on an adaptation of the classic A not B paradigm in order to examine the early foundations of spatial working memory capabilities in 26 developmentally delayed preschool children with ASD, 18 age- and IQ-matched children with WS, and 19 age-matched typically-developing (TD) children. The results revealed evidence that foundational spatial working memory performance in ASD and WS was comparable with that of TD children. Performance was associated with intellectual ability in the ASD and TD groups, but not in the WS group. Performance was not associated with adaptive behavior in any group. These findings are discussed in the context of previous research that has been largely limited to older and substantially less developmentally delayed children with these neurodevelopmental disorders.

publication date

  • 2018