Local-global processing approaches in older autistic adults: A matched control study using RCFT and WAIS-IV

Roelina C. D. Davids*, Yvonne Groen, Ina J. Berg, Oliver Tucha, Ingrid van Balkom

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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Research on information processing of older adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is scarce, which is a caveat because findings in children may not apply to (older) autistic adults. This study examines visual local-global processing approaches in older autistic adults.

The Rey-Osterrieth Complex Figure Test (RCFT) is a popular measure of visual-constructional ability, organisational strategy and memory. In this matched-control study, we explore if the qualitative and quantitative performance on the RCFT can be used as an operationalisation of central coherence in autistic older adults (n = 36; ages 50−84 years), and whether RCFT performance associates with autism-symptoms. WAIS-IV scores were also obtained to test for local-global differences in performance.

No evidence was found for deviating processing approaches on the RCFT (both quantitative and qualitative) in the ASD group, although copying the RCFT was significantly slower. The WAIS-IV showed no differences between participant-groups, except for a significantly better performance on Visual Puzzles by autistic participants.

Using visual local-global processing tests common to clinical practice, this study provides no evidence for a weak central coherence but some support for enhanced perceptual functioning in late-diagnosed high functioning older autistic adults. There was no evidence for altered strategic approaches during the completion of a complex visual information processing task (RCFT). Combining a quantitative and a qualitative scoring system of visual information processing tasks (such as RCFT) can elucidate the preferred visual information processing style in autistic individuals.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101655
Number of pages11
JournalResearch in Autism Spectrum Disorders
Publication statusPublished - Oct-2020


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