A review of: Saalasti, S., Lepistö, T., Toppila, E., Kujala, T., Laakso, M., Nieminen-von Wendt, T., Wendt, L., Jansson-Verkasalo, E. (2008). Language Abilities of Children with Asperger Syndrome. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders DOI: 10.1007/s10803-008-0540-3

One of the diagnostic criteria of Asperger’s syndrome (AS) is normative language development, or more specifically: no evidence of language delays. However, the authors of this study argued that there is evidence to suggest that people with AS have impairment in various aspects of language including production and comprehension, making their language fluent but “pragmatically impaired.” Their interpretation of utterances is literal, leading to problems with the understanding of humor, metaphors, idioms, etc. To better understand the nature of these deficits the researchers compared the language skills of 22 children with AS (16 boys) between 7 and 10 years of age (diagnosed via ADOS and ADI) against 22 typically developing children of similar ages and IQ who were recruited from elementary schools. The researchers examined vocabulary, phonological processing, comprehension, repetition (phonological and sentence), fluency, and auditory processing. Children with AS performed significantly worse than typically developing children in the comprehension test (Comprehension of Instructions from the NEPSY) and tended to perform worse in the phonological processing test. No other differences were found. The authors argued that lower scores in the comprehension test are likely due to deficits in self-regulation and executive function, since both skills are necessary for successful performance on the comprehension and phonological processing tests.


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