Language abilities in individuals with high functioning autism and Asperger’s Syndrome

About language abilities in individuals with high functioning autism and Asperger's Syndrome

Chief Investigators

Dr Nicole Rinehart
Dr Gregory Yelland
Prof. Bruce Tonge


Samantha Speirs

The Study

Delays in language and communication mark the earliest, and are often the most apparent, features of autism.  While autism and Asperger's Syndrome both display impairments in communication and social interaction, the disorders are distinguished by current diagnostic criteria (DSM-IV-TR and ICD-10) based on whether there is a delay in language and communication prior to 3 years.

The aim of this project is to study basic language and general information processing abilities of individuals with high functioning autism and Asperger's disorder.  The current study will investigate the lexical (responsible for word recognition), semantic (responsible for basic word associations) and pragmatic language processing systems, along with speeded information processing abilities, in individuals with autism and Asperger's disorder.  In this study we will use traditional, computer-based psycholinguistic tasks to directly examine basic language abilities in autism and Asperger's disorder, an approach that has not previously been used with these clinical populations.

An examination of language processing abilities in individuals with autism and Asperger's disorder will further our understanding of the origin of language and communication deficits observed in these disorders, and advance research examining possible clinical differences between autism and Asperger's disorder.  Such findings may lead to the development of more appropriate interventions to help language functioning in these clinical populations, and may also assist in the development of a more accurate diagnostic procedure to distinguish the two disorders.

For more information, please contact Samantha Speirs or Dr Gregory Yelland.