A comparison of linguistic errors in autistic and DLD preschoolers
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This exploratory study investigated similarities and differences in the language of autistic and developmental language disordered (DLD) preschoolers. It was hypothesized that both groups would display similar types of expressive formulation errors, but would demonstrate differences in pragmatic styles. Thus, differences in the manner in which autistic children use their language to communicate were hypothesized. The rationale for this research was based on clinical observations by Rapin & Allen (1983) of these two populations.;Transcripts consisting of spontaneous language samples of twenty-one DLD and eighteen autistic children were analyzed for linguistic errors based on a classification system similar to Bishop & Adams (1989). These transcripts were obtained as part of data collected on subjects participating in a study funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH). Mean ages in months for the children were 60.48 and 55.56 for the DLD and autistic groups, respectively. Subjects in the two groups appeared to be comparable, as they did not statistically differ in terms of age, mean length of utterance (MLU), nonverbal IQ, or percentage of completed utterances on spontaneous language samples. However, additional measures analyzed indicated significant differences in social skills and receptive language skills, with the autistic group less adept in both areas.;Results indicated that the autistic group made significantly more pragmatic errors than the DLD group. No quantitative differences in expressive errors were found. However, the language of the autistic children tended to be less grammatically sophisticated. Finally, an inverse relationship between pragmatic errors and nonverbal performance was found in both groups, supporting a suggested right-hemispheric involvement of pragmatic functioning. However, given that the Stanford-Binet Abstract/Visual Reasoning area was the only measure of nonverbal functioning, this warrants further investigation. Additionally, until more controlled replication studies have been undertaken, results from this study should be held in abeyance, since there were many methodical limitations.
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