Taking an alternative perspective on language in autism
|PhD ceremony:||Ms J. (Jessica) Overweg|
|When:||November 08, 2018|
|Supervisors:||prof. dr. P. (Petra) Hendriks, dr. C.A. (Catharina) Hartman|
|Where:||Academy building RUG|
Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have problems with social communication and interaction. These problems are possibly partly due to a perspective-taking deficit, which makes it difficult to understand that others may think, know or see things differently. Jessica Overweg tested whether children with ASD also show language comprehension problems as a result of a perspective-taking deficit.
The ability as a hearer to take the speaker’s perspective into account is important in language comprehension. For example, perspective-taking skills are needed to interpret personal pronouns, such as I and you. Suppose a colleague says: James said: “You won the price”. To select the correct referent of you, a shift is needed from the perspective of the actual speaker (the colleague) to the perspective of the reported speaker (James). Without this perspective shift, the hearer will think that he won the price, even though the colleague used the pronoun you to refer to himself. To make this perspective shift, a hearer needs perspective-taking skills.
Overweg tested whether children with ASD have difficulties interpreting linguistic expressions that involve perspective taking, such as personal pronouns. She found that children with ASD show language comprehension problems partly due to a perspective-taking deficit. This means that the perspective-taking deficit in children with ASD not only influence their social communication and interaction skills, but also influence their language comprehension skills. Therefore, it is important that in the future, in a clinical setting and at schools, more attention is paid to language comprehension in children with ASD.