Italian journal of clinical and psychoeducational research

Scientific Committee: Michele Zappella
Periodicity: january, may, october

Vol. 15, n. 1, 2017

Table of Contents

Michele Zappella

Editoriale

Ricerca internazionale

Tobias Schuwerk Maria Vuori Beate Sodian

Implicit and explicit Theory of Mind reasoning in autism spectrum disorders: The impact of experience

DOI: 10.14605/AUT1511701

This study aimed to investigate the relationship between explicit and implicit forms of Theory of Mind reasoning and to test the influence of experience on implicit Theory of Mind reasoning in individuals with autism spectrum disorders and in neurotypical adults. Results from two standard explicit Theory of Mind tasks are mixed: Individuals with autism spectrum disorders did not differ from neurotypical adults in their performance in the Strange Stories Test, but scored significantly lower on the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test. Furthermore, in an implicit false-belief task, individuals with autism spectrum disorders differed from neurotypical adults in false belief-congruent anticipatory looking. However, this group difference disappeared by (1) providing participants with the outcome of a false belief-based action and (2) subsequently repeating this test trial. Although the tendency to fixate the false belief-congruent location significantly increased from the first to the second test trial in individuals with autism spectrum disorders, it differed in neither test trial from chance. These findings support the notion of an implicit Theory of Mind deficit in autism spectrum disorders, but give rise to the idea that anticipatory looking behaviors in autism spectrum disorders may be affected by experience. Additionally, the pattern of results from implicit and explicit Theory of Mind measures supports the theory of two independent Theory of Mind reasoning systems.

Ricerca italiana

Silvia Maggiolini Giulia Peretti

Asperger’s syndrome in women. Problems and difficulties in emotional relationships

DOI: 10.14605/AUT1511702

This paper aims to analyse a research topic of recent interest and increasing importance in the social and educational field: the condition of physical and psychological abuse experienced by women with Asperger’s syndrome. This paper begins with the question: what are the reasons that make these women more vulnerable to abuse of various kinds? In order to identify possible issues for debate and to encourage a deeper understanding of the problem, the contribution of different professionals was considered essential (pedagogical, psychological and legal elements). Particular attention is paid both to the importance of specific diagnostic criteria for the female gender and to the need to better understand the main features related to the management of relationships in women with Asperger’s syndrome. This article is therefore intended as an exploratory journey within a research field which nowadays is still relatively unknown but is acquiring increasing scientific attention.

The study presented herein aims at deepening and comparing strategies of stigma management and resistance of families with (high functioning) autistic and Down children. The paper focuses on the results of interviews to the subsample of families with children with High Functioning Autism/Asperger Syndrome, so as to highlight the different types of barriers faced by those interviewed — «barriers to doing» and «barriers to being» — and the strategies developed to overcome them. The quality of life of the families depends on both structural barriers, namely budget cuts related to public services, and on psycho-emotional barriers: the consequences of social discredit produced by invisibility and the peculiar characteristics of the syndrome. The results suggest the presence of an «exclusive inclusion», because the families involved in the study have found themselves, like «dolphins in the desert», in a hostile environment, from which they are often excluded.

Ricerca italiana

Jessica Barsotti Roberta Nencioli Lucia Pfanner Angela Cosenza Raffaella Tancredi Sara Calderoni Filippo Muratori Antonio Narzisi

Development of communicative-linguistic and adaptive skills in children with autism spectrum disorder after six months of treatment

DOI: 10.14605/AUT1511704

In this study we investigated the effectiveness of six months of treatment-as-usual (TAU) on communicative-linguistic and adaptive skills of 70 children with autism spectrum disorder from five Italian regions. Specifically, we investigated: (1) the effectiveness of the treatment on communicative-linguistic and adaptive skills, subdividing the children on the basis of their level of development; (2) the outcome predictors of communicative-linguistic skills; (3) the effectiveness of treatments which provide interventions aimed at the development of communicative-linguistic skills versus treatments that do not provide similar interventions. The results showed (1) a communicative-linguistic and adaptive enhancement in children with higher levels of development; (2) level of development, adaptive functioning and severity of autistic symptoms are significant predictors of outcome of linguistic-communicative skills. Finally we found that (3) after 6 months, TAU which includes treatments aimed at the development of communicative-linguistic skills has an increased effectiveness on adaptive communication skills (measured by the Vineland II communication scale) in children with higher developmental levels.

The study investigates the assessment of pragmatic conversational skills in neurodevelopmental disorders. Two check-lists (TOPICC and Pragmatic Rating Scale) were used in the clinical evaluation of three diagnostic groups, balanced in gender, age and intellectual functioning (n = 20 in each group): autism spectrum disorder (ASD), social (pragmatic) communication disorder (SCD), and specific learning disorder (SLD). Results show increasing pragmatic conversational symptoms among diagnostic groups (SLD < SCD < ASD). Individuals with ASD, compared to subjects with SCD, present a pragmatic profile with increased symptoms of atypical prosody, verbosity, non-verbal communication deficit, obsessive topics and aloof, stilted interaction. The conversational check-lists seem to be of interest for the clinical assessment of children and adolescents with pragmatic impairment.

Ricerca italiana

Simonetta Panerai Domenica Tasca Marinella Zingale Anna Maria Torrisi Patricia Maria Domenica Lupica Capra Maurizio Elia

Constructional praxis in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

DOI: 10.14605/AUT1511706

Constructional praxis are usually assessed through building/assembling tests and copy/free drawing tests. Studies in literature have shown a significant correlation between constructional praxis and executive functions as well as deficient visuo-constructional functions in individuals with either ASD or ADHD. Our study aimed to compare constructional abilities in children with either ASD or ADHD, in order to detect any specific profiles. Results showed relatively preserved two-dimensional construction abilities in both groups, while significantly deficient copy/free drawing performances were found in comparison with the control group. The comparison between ASD and ADHD did not reveal statistically significant differences between any of the tests; however, individuals with ASD performed better in known object (clock) drawing, while individuals with ADHD showed improved performances in the human figure drawing test (La Dame qui se promène et il pleut). Therefore, individuals with ADHD showed higher abilities than individuals with ASD in integrating known elements to generate something new.