Executive function predicts school readiness in autistic and typical preschool children

Elizabeth Pellicano*, Lorcan Kenny, Janina Brede, Elena Klaric, Hannah Lichwa, Rebecca McMillin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


Children's emerging executive functions (EF) have been shown to be critical for a whole range of other functions, including school readiness and later academic success. Here we examine for the first time whether individual differences in EF are uniquely associated with autistic children's readiness to learn in school, beyond general and developmental influences in age and ability. Thirty autistic and 30 typical preschool children, matched on age and ability, were assessed on EF (working memory, inhibition, set-shifting) and school readiness measures. Autistic children performed significantly worse on school readiness measures and EF measures relative to typical children. Furthermore, individual differences in children's EF skills, especially in inhibitory control and working memory, were uniquely related to variation in their school readiness for both autistic and non-autistic children. The findings from this cross-sectional study provide further support for the potential role of EF in explaining the variability in autistic children's functional outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalCognitive Development
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • autism
  • executive function
  • school readiness
  • academic achievement
  • outcomes


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