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Assessing social-pragmatic inferencing skills in children with autism spectrum disorder

Loukusa, S., Mäkinen, L., Kuusikko-Gauffin, S., Ebeling, H. and Leinonen, E. (2018) Assessing social-pragmatic inferencing skills in children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Communication Disorders, 73 . pp. 91-105.

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By utilizing the Pragma test this study investigated how sixteen five- to ten-year-old children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and sixteen typically developing (TD) children comprehended contextually challenging scenarios demanding 1) contextual inference with theory of mind (ToM), 2) contextual inference without ToM, 3) relevant use of language, 4) recognition of feelings, and 5) understanding false beliefs. The study also compared children’s ability to explain their own correct answers. In addition, this study evaluated the sensitivity of three different methods for discriminating the children with ASD from the TD children: 1) the Pragma test, 2) the Social Interaction Deviance Composite (SIDC) of Children’s Communication Checklist-2 (CCC-2), and 3) the Theory of Mind subtest of the Developmental Neuropsychological Assessment, Second edition (NEPSY-II). The results showed that children with ASD differed from TD children in questions demanding context utilization. However, the demand of mind-reading in utterance interpretation increased the difference between groups. Compared to TD children, children with ASD had more difficulties in explaining how they had used context to arrive at the correct answer. The discrimination power for detecting children with ASD from TD children was excellent in the Pragma test, good in the SIDC CCC-2 and fair in the Theory of Mind subtest of NEPSY-II. This study showed that by using contextually sensitive materials, such as the Pragma test, it is possible to detect the social-pragmatic inferencing difficulties of high-functioning children with ASD in structured test situations and not only in real-life situations or by using parental reports.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Vice Chancellery
Publisher: Elsevier Inc.
Copyright: © 2018 The Authors.
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