New Look at Language Delay in Children with Autism
[Source: Science Daily]
A new study by a linguistics professor and an alumnus from The University of Texas at Austin sheds light on a well-known linguistic characteristic of autistic children — their reluctance to use pronouns — paving the way for more accurate diagnostics.
Pronouns — words such as “you” and “me” in English — are difficult for children with autism, who sometimes reverse them (for example, using “you” to refer to oneself) or avoid them in favor of names. Richard P. Meier, a linguistics professor in the College of Liberal Arts at UT Austin, and Aaron Shield and Helen Tager-Flusberg from the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Boston University, examined whether the same applied with American Sign Language. Previous research attributed these pronoun hiccups to language confusion or echolalia — automatic repetition of noises or phrases. But, a first-ever study on the use of pronouns by native-signing children requires new theories, Shield explained. “Our work suggests that the opacity of pronouns in English and other spoken languages is not at the root of the problem,” said Shield, a UT Austin Linguistics alumnus and lead author for the study. “We suspect, though more work is needed, that people with autism may differ in their experiences of selfhood.”
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