Attentional Control in fragile X syndrome
Attention problems in fragile X syndrome (FXS) are often stated as one of the most impairing features that is associated with the syndrome. However there have only been a few studies that have looked at the development of inhibitory control in very young children. In a recent study, Bridgette Tonnsen and colleagues compared attentional control between children with fragile X syndrome and typically developing children who were matched on chronological or mental age.
The study used a variety of different assessment measures, including a snack delay task where the children had to wait for a signal before they were able to eat a snack which was in front of them, as well as parental assessment of the problem behaviours they see in their children.
This study showed that there are persistent deficits in attentional control, and that these deficits are present even in very young children (aged 3-6) with fragile X syndrome. These early attentional control difficulties are related to broader attentional behaviour problems, and may limit a child’s opportunity to learn from and engage with the environment. This can limit developmental growth alongside increasing the risk of further behavioural problems. Despite the poorer attention overall that is seen in fragile X syndrome, attentional control does improve with age. This study highlights the need for early intervention, while the child is still of preschool age in order to maximise the potential development for the child.