Beyond Sentences: Profiling Language and Communication in School-Aged Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

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  • Purpose: This study explored whether the Expression, Reception and Recall of Narrative Instrument (ERRNI) could profile language abilities in children with ASD beyond the sentence level. We hypothesized the ERRNI would identify significant communication impairments in children with ASD above traditional language measures and predicted relationships between narrative content, and social and pragmatic skill.

    Method: Narrative (ERRNI), language (CELF-4), pragmatic (SPP), and social skills (VABS-II, ADOS social affect), were examined in 74 school-aged children with ASD participating in a larger multisite longitudinal study (Pathways in ASD). Participants’ narrative content scores were compared to the norming sample. Additionally, regression and correlation analyses were used to determine contributions of and relationships among scores.
    Results: As expected, participants with ASD included less narrative content than those of the norming sample. Furthermore, narrative abilities were significantly weaker than structural language abilities and a large portion of the variance in narrative content was unaccounted for by structural language level. Increased proficiency in narrative production was related to pragmatic language skill and some aspects of social functioning.
    Conclusions: Clinicians may find the ERRNI is a useful tool with school-aged children with ASD, as it measures skills other than those captured on traditional standardized language tests.

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    Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International