The social and symbolic quality of autistic children's communication

Susan M. McHale, Rune J. Simeonsson, Lee M. Marcus, J. Gregory Olley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The developmental status of the communicatory behavior of 11 autistic children was assessed. Children were observed during free play sessions under two conditions: (a) when teachers were present to direct the children's behavior and (b) when teachers were absent and the children played among themselves. Mean changes in the children's communicatory behavior were measured over time (8 months) using the behavior scale designed for this study. The relationship between the developmental status of the children's communicatory behavior and standardized measures of their social and cognitive functioning (e.g., IQ, Vineland Social Age) was also assessed. The results revealed that the quantity and social quality of autistic children's communicatory behavior were greater in the teachers' presence than in their absence and that the symbolic and social quality of the children's communicatory behavior increased over 8 months. Also, positive correlations were found between social and symbolic levels of communication and standardized tests of social and cognitive functioning. The implications of these findings for the assessment of autistic children are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)299-310
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 1980

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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