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Narrative Skills in Primary School Children with Autism in Relation to Language and Nonverbal Temporal Sequencing

Journal article
Authors Emilia Carlsson
Jakob Åsberg Johnels
Christopher Gillberg
Carmela Miniscalco
Published in Journal of Psycholinguistic Research
Volume 49
Pages 475-489
ISSN 0090-6905
Publication year 2020
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology
Gillberg Neuropsychiatry Centre
Pages 475-489
Language en
Keywords Narrative skills, Autism, Children, Language skills, Nonverbal temporal, sequencing, spectrum disorders, story, comprehension, preschoolers, coherence, ability, Linguistics, Psychology
Subject categories Psychiatry, Psychology


Recent research has suggested that temporal sequencing of narrative events might be a domain-general ability that underlies oral narrative capacities. The current study investigated this issue in a group of children with known pragmatic and narrative difficulties, namely Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). We hypothesized (1) that children with ASD (n = 45) would retell narratives of poorer quality than both chronological age-matched (CAM) children and younger children matched on sentence-level language skills (LM), and (2) that nonverbal temporal sequencing skills would uniquely predict individual differences in oral narrative performance in children with ASD. The results show that children with ASD performed poorer on all measures of oral narrative quality compared with the CAM group, and on eight of ten measures compared with the LM group. Thus, our first hypothesis was confirmed, suggesting that narrative difficulties in ASD cannot be fully explained by impaired language. The second hypothesis was only partly confirmed: nonverbal temporal sequencing explained significant or marginally significant variance in some, but not all, aspects of oral narrative performance of children with ASD. These results are discussed from theoretical and clinical/educational perspectives, in relation to the heterogeneity of language skills in ASD and to domain-general features of narrative processing.

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