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Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC)
Autism Research Database
Office of Autism Research Coordination (OARC)
 
Project Element Element Description

Project Title

Project Title

Prosodic and pragmatic training in highly verbal children with autism

Principal Investigator

Principal Investigator

Snedeker, Jesse

Description

Description

Children with autism spectrum disorders vary considerably in their language abilities. Some have no speech, whereas others have large vocabularies and impeccable grammar. However, even verbally proficient children struggle with two aspects of language: pragmatics (the skills that allow us to integrate each sentence into the broader context of the conversation) and prosody (the intonation or melody of speech). To understand these problems better, Jesse Snedeker and her colleagues at Harvard University have studied a variety of simple pragmatic and prosodic processes in children with autism. They have identified two clear deficits. First, children with autism often misunderstand to whom a pronoun refers. For example, after hearing "Lucy met Sally. Later she met Linus," a child with autism may assume that it was Sally who met Linus. Second, although children with autism are sensitive to prosodic emphasis, they often misunderstand how it is used to enrich the meaning of a sentence. For example, after hearing “Lucy doesn’t like chocolate cake” (with the emphasis on “chocolate”), a child with autism may not be able to infer that Lucy likes other types of cake. Snedeker’s team is planning to enroll 40 children with autism in a three-week training program. Half of the children will practice making inferences by answering questions about the meaning of an utterance and getting feedback on their answers. The other half will be assigned to a control group. The effects of the training will be assessed using three different tasks: the inferences task from the training, an implicit comprehension task, and a new task that examines children’s ability to use pronouns and prosodic emphasis in their own speech. This study is an initial step toward developing treatments that target specific language deficits.

Funder

Funder

Simons Foundation

Fiscal Year Funding

Fiscal Year Funding

100000

Current Award Period

Current Award Period

2012-2014

Strategic Plan Question

Strategic Plan Question

Question 4: Which Treatments And Interventions Will Help?

Strategic Plan Objective

Strategic Plan Objective

4O. Not specific to Question 4 objectives

Project Link

Project Link

Prosodic and pragmatic training in highly verbal children with autism (External web link)

Institution

Institution

Harvard University

State/Country

State/Country

Massachusetts

Project Number

Project Number

240290

Federal or Private?

Federal or Private?

Private

Received ARRA Funding?

Received ARRA Funding?

No

History/Related Projects

History/Related Projects

Prosodic and pragmatic training in highly verbal children with autism | 0 | 2015 | 240290
Prosodic and pragmatic training in highly verbal children with autism | 200000 | 2013 | 240290
Prosodic and pragmatic training in highly verbal children with autism | 100000 | 2014 | 240290

 
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