Linguistic Markers in the Narratives of Children on the Autism Spectrum
Objectives: In the present study, we catalogue referential constructions and errors though a linguistic lens and explore the relation between qualitative deficits in narratives and specific grammatical profiles.
Methods: Fifteen children with high-functioning ASC (mean age: 8.6, range: 7-12 years) and fifteen typically-developing controls who were individually matched on verbal-IQ and chronological age participated in the storybook narration task of the ADOS. Narratives were transcribed and annotated for various grammatical constructions across nominal, verbal, and clausal domains. Narratives were further rated for story completeness and errors were catalogued.
Results: Our results showed that our ASC population didn’t differ from controls on errors (all p ≥ .325). However, we found significant differences in the way in which the narratives were built- primarily with regard to a reduction of anaphoric devices (p = .003) and relative clauses (p =.011) in the ASC group. The proportional reduction of anaphora correlated to lower overall story completeness and quality across groups (r=.514; p =.004).
Conclusions: These results show that even at the high-functioning end of the spectrum and controlling for verbal IQ, linguistic markers based on fine-grained grammatical measures can detect ASC against typically developing controls.
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