Cross-Situational Word Learning In Children with ASD

Friday, May 18, 2012
Sheraton Hall (Sheraton Centre Toronto)
2:00 PM
H. Akechi1, Y. Kikuchi2, Y. Tojo3, H. Osanai4 and T. Hasegawa1, (1)The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan, (2)Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Tokyo, Japan, (3)Ibaraki University, Mito, Japan, (4)Musashino Higashi Gakuen, Tokyo, Japan
Background: It was reported that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have difficulty in learning words via social cues (e.g., speaker’s eye gaze; Baron-Cohen et al., 1997). However, some children with ASD acquire vocabularies as rich as typically developing (TD) children. One of potential efficient strategies is a cross-situational learning, which is a mechanism for learning the words across multiple trials even when there is no definite cue for the word-object correspondence in one trial.

Objectives: To investigate whether children with ASD learn words effectively using cross-situational learning as well as TD children.

Methods: Participants consisted of 20 children with ASD (mean age 9.1; range 6-12) and 20 TD children (mean age 8.4; range 6-12), who were matched on verbal mental age (VMA). There were 6 novel words and 6 novel objects. In the training phase, two novel objects were presented on the monitor and two corresponding novel words were presented via the loudspeaker in each trial. There is no definite cue for the word-object correspondence in one trial. Each word-object pairs was presented 10 times. In the test trials, two objects and one word were presented and the participant was asked which object is the referent. Each object was presented twice as a target and twice as a non-target. Thus, there were 12 test trials in total.

Results: There was no significant difference between groups in the performance in the test trials (p > .10). In addition, the performance in both the ASD (p < .001) and the TD group (p < .001) were above chance level (6/12 = 50%). Moreover, the performance in the TD group positively correlated with their VMA (r = .47, p < .05), but not in the ASD group (r = −.16, p > .10).

Conclusions: Results suggest that children with ASD can learn novel words effectively using cross-situational learning regardless of VMA.

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