Children with Autism Understand Indirect Speech Acts: Evidence from a Semi-Structured Act-Out TaskReport as inadecuate




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Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder are often said to present a global pragmatic impairment. However, there is some observational evidence that context-based comprehension of indirect requests may be preserved in autism. In order to provide experimental confirmation to this hypothesis, indirect speech act comprehension was tested in a group of 15 children with autism between 7 and 12 years and a group of 20 typically developing children between 2:7 and 3:6 years. The aim of the study was to determine whether children with autism can display genuinely contextual understanding of indirect requests. The experiment consisted of a three-pronged semi-structured task involving Mr Potato Head. In the first phase a declarative sentence was uttered by one adult as an instruction to put a garment on a Mr Potato Head toy; in the second the same sentence was uttered as a comment on a picture by another speaker; in the third phase the same sentence was uttered as a comment on a picture by the first speaker. Children with autism complied with the indirect request in the first phase and demonstrated the capacity to inhibit the directive interpretation in phases 2 and 3. TD children had some difficulty in understanding the indirect instruction in phase 1. These results call for a more nuanced view of pragmatic dysfunction in autism.



Author: Mikhail Kissine , Julie Cano-Chervel, Sophie Carlier, Philippe De Brabanter, Lesley Ducenne, Marie-Charlotte Pairon, Nicolas Deco

Source: http://plos.srce.hr/



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