International Meeting for Autism Research: How Narrative Difficulties Build Peer Rejection: The Case Study of A Girl with Asperger's Syndrome and Her Female Peers

How Narrative Difficulties Build Peer Rejection: The Case Study of A Girl with Asperger's Syndrome and Her Female Peers

Friday, May 13, 2011
Elizabeth Ballroom E-F and Lirenta Foyer Level 2 (Manchester Grand Hyatt)
2:00 PM
G. F. Adams1, M. C. Dean2 and C. Kasari3, (1)Applied Linguistics, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, (2)Education, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, (3)University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, United States
Background: Little is known about the social experiences of school-aged girls with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) (Faherty, 2006).  Recounting personal experiences presents significant challenges for children with AS (Solomon, 2004; Capps et al, 2000; Capps et al, 1998), and gender compounds the issue.  Children typically segregate into same-sex groups, and, to be perceived as socially competent, girls with AS must align with gender norms of their female peers (Adler et, 1992).  One feature of female bonding is co-participation in story telling, which in part determines social hierarchies (Goodwin, 2006).  As a result, narratives told by girls with AS have the potential to yield negative peer evaluations and social marginalization.

Objectives: This analysis examines how AS characteristics impact a 7-year-old girl’s (“Cindy's”) ability to interact with her female peers and identifies the relationship between narrative difficulties and peer rejection.  Moreover, it examines how peer responses to social violations distinguish acts of accommodation from exclusion and elucidate the power asymmetries.

Methods: In this case study, conversation/talk-in-interaction analysis of 16 hours of naturalistic video data was used to investigate Cindy’s co-participation in storytelling (Nosfinger, 1991/Goodwin & Duranti, 1992) during 16 classroom lunches with three female peers.  All instances of Cindy’s narratives were identified.  Fine-grained transcripts of non-verbal/verbal behavior were created for randomly-selected narratives from each session.  Analyses of story preface sequences, recipient design/uptake, and repairs as well as related multi-modal/paralinguistic features of all four participants enabled the creation of detailed descriptions of Cindy’s narrative difficulties.

Results: The analysis demonstrates a link between narrative difficulties and the social construction of peer rejection.  Cindy’s difficulties include:  affective (laughter, stress, volume), linguistic (literal word meaning, phrasal repetition), interactional (norms for being polite/ exchanging eye gaze/ clarifying/ negotiating/ repairing/ turn taking) and narrative (embodied delivery, causal connections, launching story) actions.  During early sessions, peers use subtle non-verbal behaviors, such as averting their gaze, turning their bodies away from Cindy and toward one another as they disengage from Cindy’s storytelling.  They also withhold expected sequential responses and second-stories.  During later sessions, peers verbalize that they are no longer interested in the content and the telling of her stories.  Cindy’s eye gaze and utterances indicate that she notices these behaviors; however, she does not make adjustments, nor does she reduce the number of stories she tells.  In part, her difficulties with conversational/interaction norms of storytelling systematically build her social rejection.

Conclusions: This research identified a positive relation between communicative deficits and peer rejection.  The student with AS is stranded in her attempt to tell stories and be engaged in the group.  Additionally, her group perceives her as someone who consistently violates social norms.  As a result, her peers form alliances to collectively sanction her undesired behavior and reject her as a friend.  These findings highlight the need to consider gender and narrative in terms of how girls with AS build and sustain social relationships.

| More