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Title: Pragmatic language ability in autism
Author: Malkin, Louise
ISNI:       0000 0005 0287 5051
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2021
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Difficulty with certain areas of pragmatic language, for example engaging in back and forth conversation, are part of the diagnostic criteria for autism. That said, not all autistic children display every symptom described within these criteria. In addition, pragmatic language comprises a relatively heterogeneous set of skills. Hence, an impairment may not be present across all pragmatic language abilities for autistic individuals. Where difficulty does exist, the associated cognitive underpinnings are unclear. This thesis mainly focuses on one key pragmatic language skill, verbal reference, that is, the ability to identify the entity that is currently of interest between interlocutors via spoken language. In Chapter 2, broader pragmatic ability in autistic children is also examined using a parent report measure (the CCC-2). The findings of chapter 3, 4 and 5 indicate that autistic children are less able than well-matched typically developing peers to produce verbal reference that is tailored to listener needs. Chapters 3 and 4, however, suggest aspects of verbal reference interpretation are intact. Finally, chapters 2, 4 and 5 indicate that pragmatic language difficulties in autism, in particular the production of verbal reference, may be more related to executive functioning than social cognition ability. In sum, pragmatic language impairment might not be uniform within all areas of pragmatic language in autism. Categorising pragmatic abilities based upon the cognitive skills they recruit may improve understanding of areas of autistic strength and weakness in this diverse skill set.
Supervisor: Abbot-Smith, Kirsten Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral