International Meeting for Autism Research (London, May 15-17, 2008): LANGUAGE AND LITERACY SUBTYPES IN HIGH-FUNCTIONING AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER


Saturday, May 17, 2008
Champagne Terrace/Bordeaux (Novotel London West)
D. Jacobs , Psychology Department, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia
A. Richdale , Psychology Department, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia
Background: One hundred and sixty-eight children (109 male and 59 female) aged between 6 years 5 months and 8 years 11 months (M = 92.88, SD = 7.88) with a diagnosis of high-functioning autism spectrum disorder (HFASD) (n = 42), specific language impairment (SLI) (n = 42), specific reading disorder (SRD) (n = 42), or who were typically developing (n = 42) participated.

Objectives: To examine whether or not there are language and literacy subtypes in young children with a high-functioning autism spectrum disorder.

Methods: Participants completed standardised measures of cognition, phonological processing, structural language (semantics, syntax), pragmatics, reading, and spelling. Ability groups were then formed on the basis of the children’s structural language and decoding scores regardless of their diagnostic group.  

Results: Children with a HFASD exhibited a wide range of language and literacy skills. Some participants demonstrated structural language and literacy outcomes comparable to typically developing children whilst others had structural language and literacy skills that paralleled those of children with SLI, SRD, or combined SLI-SRD.  Additionally, a few HFASD participants presented with above average structural language and literacy ability.

Conclusions: With regard to language and literacy, HFASD comprises a heterogeneous group of individuals. Whilst pragmatic language impairment is mandatory regardless of ability level structural language deficits are not. Furthermore, decoding and reading comprehension were similarly variable. The view that a majority of children with a HFASD have intact decoding combined with impaired reading comprehension was not supported.

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