For eight years I have worked for a family with children on the autism spectrum. Autism is a term that is not easy to explain or define. Even with tons of research, so many aspects of autism are still unknown.
Many articles about this topic involve descriptions of various brain structures. The hippocampus is one highly studied area of the brain. A study involving eight to twelve year old children found that the hippocampus of children with autism is larger when compared to the control group. The study also found that the size difference of the hippocampus diminishes as children get older.
Declarative memory is also associated with the hippocampus. People with autism are often able to remember general facts without a problem. Having the capability to remember facts can help those with autism to develop social scripts. These scripts can be useful for daily tasks, such as remembering how to behave in different social settings. Creating social scripts can help people with autism to successfully introduce themselves when meeting new people. On the other hand, those with autism do have a hard time with autobiographical information, which is also a part of memory. A lot of specific details do not tend to stick in the minds of people that are on the autism spectrum.
Flexibility of switching thought processes is also difficult for those with autism. In particular, it is the rapid transition from internal thoughts and the external world that pose difficulties. The article mentions that deciding what to say next in a conversation is a decision which happens in just seconds, making it difficult for the brain to switch thought processes.
This article also points out that much more research on autism and the brain is still to be done. Some more recent work has been done on rats, but not yet humans. Perhaps research in the future will expand on this topic.