PITTSBURGH, Oct. 11 (UPI) -- U.S. research suggests children with autism are delayed in the ability to categorize objects, both living and non-living things.
Researchers at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University say their findings could provide a cognitive explanation for one of the characteristics of autism: the inability to recognize the goals and motivations of others.
Previous research has shown young autistic children have the same abilities as normally developing children to categorize objects based on so-called surface characteristics, such as size and shape. They have a diminished ability, however, to group objects into more abstract categories.
"People have not really studied these conceptual deficits in very young children as the possible basis for the social and cognitive deficits in older children and adults with autism," said Carnegie Mellon psychologist David Rakison, who co-authored the paper with Cynthia Johnson, director of the Autism Center at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.
"This study opens the door for further research of preschool-age children, which could aid us in the development of possible diagnostic tools and therapies," Johnson said.
The research appears in the Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities.