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A comparative study of figurative language in children with autistic spectrum disorders

Mackay, Gilbert (2004) A comparative study of figurative language in children with autistic spectrum disorders. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 20 (1). pp. 13-32. ISSN 0265-6590

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Difficulties with figurative language have been highlighted by many researchers and people with autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs) as a core problem of the condition. However, few tests exist which describe and assess the responses of children with autism to figurative language. This paper reports a study which evaluated figurative language skills in able children with ASD. A group of children with ASD and a group of age-matched peers with no ASD were compared using a test of figurative language devised for the investigation. The test focused on understanding the meaning of an utterance and understanding the intentionality behind an utterance. Six categories of figurative language were examined. In all six, the controls with no ASD performed more successfully than the group with ASD, at statistically significant levels in most cases. The study also showed qualitative idiosyncrasies among those with ASD. The results are discussed in terms of their clinical and theoretical importance.