Young people with autism may find it difficult to multitask because they stick rigidly to tasks in the order they are given to them, according to a new study led by an Indian-origin researcher.
The researchers presented the pupils with a series of tasks, such as collecting and delivering a book and making a cup of hot chocolate, to be carried out within a time limit of eight minutes.
These activities were carried out in a computer-generated virtual environment.
The study found that the pupils did not appear to deviate from the order in which the tasks were listed, although doing so could have saved them time.
They also broke several rules for the tasks, notably only being allowed to go up one staircase and down another.
Dr Gnanathusharan Rajendran, a lecturer in Psychology at Strathclyde, led the research, which also involved the University of Edinburgh and Liverpool John Moores University. He said: "Our research offers a real insight into the problems young people with autism have with multitasking and points the way to further investigation for possible solutions. By using, for the first time, a virtual environment, we have been able to examine what may lie behind these problems more closely than might be possible in a real-world setting.
"The pupils with autism achieved tasks when they were given to them singly but difficulties emerged when they were asked to interleave the tasks with each other," he added.