Autistica network

Understanding how children on the autism spectrum learn grammar

Assessing the comprehension and production of relative clauses in children with and without an autism diagnosis

North East Family In person

Why is this research being done?

Some previous research has shown that children on the autism spectrum may develop grammar differently.

The aim of this project is to check whether children on the autism spectrum, who don't also have a learning disability, develop grammar in the same way as children who don't have an autism diagnosis.

Understanding if grammar develops differently and, if so, how it differs for children on the autism spectrum will help researchers design appropriate supports and interventions.

What will the researchers do?

The researchers will complete five activities with the children who take part to understand their language and reasoning abilities. These activities are designed to be fun and straightforward. They are described below:

  1. Act-Out activity: the child is asked to act-out sentences read aloud to them by the researcher using Sesame Street Muppet dolls
  2. Picture-Pointing activity: the child points to the picture that they think describes the meaning of a sentence read out by the researcher
  3. Sentence Repetition activity: the child is asked to repeat sentences read out by the researcher
  4. Short-term memory activity: the researcher shows the child picture cards, asking them if one of the items is edible, and then covers up the pictures and asks the child to tell them what they saw
  5. Non-verbal reasoning activity: a standardised measure where the child will be asked to point to a picture that completes a pattern

Who can take part?

Children aged between 5 and 7 years of age who:

  • Live near Newcastle
  • Have an autism diagnosis
  • Do not have a diagnosis of an additional learning disability
  • Are happy to work one-on-one with a trained researcher