What's Your Story: Narrative Language and Cognition Among School-Aged Children with ASD
Objectives: To explore whether parent report of narrative ability differed between children with ASD and children with typical development (TD). To evaluate whether groups differed on an observational measure of narrative ability. To investigate whether narrative ability corresponds to working memory (WM) within the group with ASD.
Methods: Data collection is ongoing with data currently available for 66 children. Participants are 6 to 11 year-olds with ASD and TD – all with average or above average IQ. Working memory was measured using the Children’s Memory Scale Numbers subtest and by parent report from the Behavioral Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF). Composites of individual items related to narrative ability were created for both the Expressive and Interpersonal Relationships (IR) subtests of the Vineland-II parent interview. Narrative ability is also being coded from a speech sample obtained during the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule using Reilly, Klima, and Bellugi’s (1991) narrative coding scheme.
Results: Preliminary results showed that groups differed on the Vineland Expressive composite, t(63)= -6.64, p < .001, Vineland IR composite, t(63)= -6.29, p < .001, a combination of both Vineland composites, t(63)= -7.00, p < .001, and BRIEF WM, t(60)= 5.57, p < .001, though no differences were found with CMS scores. This suggests that there are differences in narrative ability between the two groups, though results about working memory are mixed. Among children with ASD, BRIEF WM scores related to the Vineland Expressive composite, r(34) = -.40, p = .02. No correlation was found between CMS scores and any of the Vineland composites. Results of behavioral coding and the relation between observed narrative ability and cognitive function will also be presented.
Conclusions: Children with ASD differed from those with TD on Vineland composite measures of narrative and on parent report of working memory, but not during a behavioral working memory task. Among the group with ASD, preliminary results provide some evidence for a relation between working memory and narrative ability. Behavioral coding will provide a richer analysis of narrative ability and, therefore, may provide additional information about the relation of working memory to narrative abilities.