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Investigating the relationship between language and picture understanding in children with autism spectrum disorder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-198
Number of pages12
Issue number1
Early online date13 Nov 2017
DateAccepted/In press - 8 Aug 2017
DateE-pub ahead of print - 13 Nov 2017
DatePublished (current) - Jan 2019


Previous studies report that minimally-verbal children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) show impaired picture comprehension when matched to typically developing (TD) controls on language comprehension. Here we compare both picture comprehension and picture production abilities in linguistically-delayed children with ASD and TD controls matched on language comprehension and language production. Participants were 20 children with ASD (M age: 11.2 years) and 20 TD children (M age: 4.4 years) matched on age equivalents for receptive language (ASD M: 4.6 years; TD M: 4.5 years) and expressive language (ASD: 4.4 years; TD: 4.5 years). Picture comprehension was assessed by asking children to identify the 3-D referents of line drawings. Picture production was assessed by asking children to create representational drawings of unfamiliar objects and having raters identify their referents. The results of both picture tasks revealed statistically equivalent performance for TD children and children with ASD, and identical patterns of performance across trial types. These findings suggest that early deficits in pictorial understanding displayed by minimally-verbal individuals may diminish as their expressive language skills develop. Theoretically, our study indicates that development in linguistic and pictorial domains may be inter-related for children with ASD (as is the case for typical development).

    Research areas

  • autism spectrum disorder, language, pictures, comprehension, production, symbolic understanding

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    Accepted author manuscript, 419 KB, PDF document


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