Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often have difficulties with understanding pragmatic language and also nonliteral language. However, little is understood about the development of these two language domains. The current study examines pragmatic and nonliteral language development in 69 typically developing (TD) children and 27 children with ASD, ages 5-12 years. For both groups, performance on pragmatic language and nonliteral language scores on the Comprehensive Assessment of Spoken Language increased significantly with chronological age, vocabulary, syntax, and theory of mind abilities both for children with ASD and TD children. Based on a cross-sectional trajectory analysis, the children with ASD showed slower rates of development with chronological age relative to TD children for both the pragmatic language and nonliteral language subtests. However, the groups did not show significant differences in the rate of development for either pragmatic language or nonliteral language abilities with regard to their vocabulary abilities or TOM abilities. It appears that children with ASD may reach levels of pragmatic language that are in line with their current levels of basic language abilities. Both basic language abilities and theory of mind abilities may aid in the development of pragmatic language and nonliteral language abilities.Learning outcomes: After reading this article, the reader will understand: (1) the relation between basic language abilities (vocabulary and syntax) and advanced language abilities (pragmatic and nonliteral language), (2) how the cross-sectional trajectory analysis differs from traditional group matching studies, and (3) how pragmatic and nonliteral language development for children with autism shows both similarities and differences compared to typically developing children.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Linguistics and Language
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- LPN and LVN
- Speech and Hearing