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  • Cited by 15
  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: November 2009

17 - Memory in ASD: enduring themes and future prospects

Summary

Introduction

Memory difficulties are neither a prominent nor a defining feature of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) yet these conditions are characterized by a consistent pattern of memory strengths and weaknesses. The earliest clinical reports of autistic memory often commented on good rote memory, and early experimental investigations mapped out a profile of spared and impaired areas of memory performance as well as highlighting the reduced role of structure and meaning in enhancing memory performance. The enlargement seen in the last two decades of our conception of autism to that of a spectrum of related conditions has been accompanied by research that has both confirmed many of these early findings in a wider diagnostic context and has also established distinct patterns of performance in other memory processes, such as an attenuated sense of self-awareness when recalling the personally experienced past and a diminished recall of incidentally encoded context. We now have sufficient understanding of memory in people with autism to enable some speculations about why in this group some memory processes should function typically and others not. Such speculations can also provide us with insights into how memory interacts with and depends on other psychological processes in ASD-specific ways, insights that in turn can illuminate a broader range of psychological functioning in this population.