Difficulties in social and communicational skills in ASD have been described over the last few years. However, scholars in these studies have not typically been linguists. Pragmatic performance deviations are seen to lie in the core of ASD and pragmatics is part of linguistics. Thus, ASD studies are in need of linguistically-oriented analyses of pragmatics.
Analysis of the difficulties the HFA/As-individuals might have in figurative or humorous language.
Series of pen-and-paper idiom and joke tasks were administered to 4 groups of HFA/As-subjects and matched controls. In order to study idiom comprehension, the subjects were asked to choose, from four alternatives, one or two sentences that, according to their judgments, meant the same as the stimulus sentence containing an unambiguous VP idiom. A judgment task was administered in order to find out what type of jokes would be categorized as “humorous” by HFA/As-subjects and another paper-and-pen decision task was administered in order to find out if they could find the correct punch-line from the list of possible alternative endings in order to make the text into a joke.
In idiom comprehension in both subject groups the number of “incorrect” responses diminishes and the number of “correct” increases with age. However, the older HFA/As-subjects remain at the level of the younger control group. The older HFA/As-subjects also have fewer idiom alternative choices as well as more literal and lexical distractor choices. The results from jokes tasks show, unexpectedly, that the HFA/As group ranked jokes more often as funny as did their controls. The punch-line task analysis is underway, but will be finalized shortly.
The age related performance indicates that explicit rehabilitation methods should be developed to avoid pragmatic fossilization in function of age.