Title: Toddlers with ASD: Thinking Ahead To Comprehend Language
Legend: Right – Mean looks to target in each trial type during the full trial. Time represents the time course of the trial, with 0 at the onset of the target noun. The proportion of looking to target was the amount of time looking at the target, divided by the amount of time looking at either image. The solid grey line indicates verb onset. The first dotted line indicates the start of the analysis window, and the second dotted line indicates the end of the analysis window. Shading represents plus or minus one standard error of the mean. Left – Mean looks to target in each trial type during the analysis window. Children with weaker language skills (median split) showed an attenuated head start relative to the children with stronger language skills. Time represents the time course of the trial, with 0 at the onset of the target noun. The proportion of looking to target was the amount of time looking at the target, divided by the amount of time looking at either image. Error bars represent plus or minus one standard error of the mean.
Citation: Venker, C.E., Edwards, J., Saffran, J., & Ellis Weismer, S. (2019). Thinking ahead: Incremental language processing is associated with receptive language abilities in preschoolers with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 49, 1011-1023.
Abstract: In typical development, listeners can use semantic content of verbs to facilitate incremental language processing-a skill that is associated with existing language skills. Studies of children with ASD have not identified an association between incremental language processing in semantically-constraining contexts and language skills, perhaps because participants were adolescents and/or children with strong language skills. This study examined incremental language processing and receptive language in young children with ASD with a range of language skills. Children showed a head start when presented with semantically-constraining verbs (e.g., Read the book) compared to neutral verbs (e.g., Find the book). Children with weaker receptive language showed a smaller head start than children with stronger receptive language skills, suggesting continuity between typical development and ASD.
About the Lab: Ellis Weismer’s research focuses on investigating the developmental course and nature of language processing in typically developing children, late talkers, and children with specific language impairment (SLI). She is particularly interested in exploring the relationship between language and aspects of cognitive functioning, such as working memory capacity, in children with language learning difficulties. More recent work has focused on characterizing early language abilities of toddlers on the autism spectrum and examining the overlap between late talkers with and without ASD to evaluate the ‘distinct category’ versus ‘dimensional’ accounts of language disorders. Visit the Little Listeners website.