Women and Social Communication Abilities
The ability to communicate effectively is highly valued by employers and there is growing evidence that women with ASD and average intelligence present with better social communication skills than their male equivalents which may positively influence employability for women.
EmploymentWorks Canada (EWC), a national employment preparation program for young adults with ASD that is embedded within the community, is gathering practice based evidence about social communicative abilities using the Communication Checklist – Adult (CC-A). The CC-A is an informant questionnaire that measures structural language abilities (speech, syntax and semantics), pragmatic skills (matching language to context), and social engagement. It provides information regarding one's use of language from an informant’s perspective derived from daily interactions with the individual.
- Are the EWC participants’ scores on the CC-A comparable to the CC-A normative sample of individuals with ASD (not in an employment cohort)?
- Do EWC participants’ scores on the CC-A differ based on gender?
Secondary data analysis was conducted using the CC-A normative sample (n=55) and 147 EWC participants who completed the CC-A as a baseline measure for EWC.
An independent t-test was conducted to compare the scaled scores of EWC participants to the CC-A normative sample. The CC-A normative sample had significantly lower Language Structure scaled scores, t (205) = 2.14, p =.034, d =0.38; as well as lower Pragmatic skills scaled scores, t (205) = 2.15, p =.033, d =0.39, compared to all of the participants from Canada.
Because the CC-A normative sample only had one female and there is some evidence that women with autism may present with better social communication skills the participants from EWC were grouped according to gender. Of importance, independent samples t-tests and Chi-square tests (p>.05) indicated the female and male participants in EWC were similar in age, educational attainment, understanding of single word vocabulary and reported severity of autistic symptoms as measured by the Social Responsiveness Scale-2. A comparison of the female EWC participants, male EWC participants, and CC-A mixed normative sample using a one-way ANOVA was conducted. There was a statistically significant main effect for group on the Language Structure domain, [F (2, 199) = 5.84, p = .003]. Post-hoc tests (Table 1) revealed the female EWC participants scored significantly higher than participants from the CC-A normative group and the male EWC participants. No significant difference were noted between the CC-A normative sample and male EWC participants.
Although the female EWC participants had significantly better structural language skills than the male EWC participants and the CC-A normative sample, their low pragmatic skills scores are consistent with an autism profile derived from the CC-A. Likewise, their communicative difficulties, having two or more scaled scores of 6 or less, will have an impact on everyday life. These findings raise provocative questions about assumptions about gender-mediated differences, and invite critical reflection on social interaction challenges for females and males with ASD in the workplace.