University of Oulu

Soile Loukusa, Leena Mäkinen, Sanna Kuusikko-Gauffin, Hanna Ebeling, Eeva Leinonen, Assessing social-pragmatic inferencing skills in children with autism spectrum disorder, Journal of Communication Disorders, Volume 73, 2018, Pages 91-105, ISSN 0021-9924,

Assessing social-pragmatic inferencing skills in children with autism spectrum disorder

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Author: Loukusa, Soile1; Mäkinen, Leena1; Kuusikko-Gauffin, Sanna2;
Organizations: 1Research Unit of Logopedics, PO Box 1000, 90014 University of Oulu, Finland
2Faculty of Medicine, Institute of Clinical Medicine, Department of Child Psychiatry, Oulu University Hospital, University of Oulu, PO Box. 26, 90029 Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.4 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Elsevier, 2018
Publish Date: 2018-04-24


By utilizing the Pragma test this study investigated how sixteen five- to ten-year-old children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and sixteen typically developing (TD) children comprehended contextually challenging scenarios demanding 1) contextual inference with theory of mind (ToM), 2) contextual inference without ToM, 3) relevant use of language, 4) recognition of feelings, and 5) understanding false beliefs. The study also compared children’s ability to explain their own correct answers. In addition, this study evaluated the sensitivity of three different methods for discriminating the children with ASD from the TD children: 1) the Pragma test, 2) the Social Interaction Deviance Composite (SIDC) of Children’s Communication Checklist-2 (CCC-2), and 3) the Theory of Mind subtest of the Developmental Neuropsychological Assessment, Second edition (NEPSY-II). The results showed that children with ASD differed from TD children in questions demanding context utilization. However, the demand of mind-reading in utterance interpretation increased the difference between groups. Compared to TD children, children with ASD had more difficulties in explaining how they had used context to arrive at the correct answer. The discrimination power for detecting children with ASD from TD children was excellent in the Pragma test, good in the SIDC CCC-2 and fair in the Theory of Mind subtest of NEPSY-II. This study showed that by using contextually sensitive materials, such as the Pragma test, it is possible to detect the social-pragmatic inferencing difficulties of high-functioning children with ASD in structured test situations and not only in real-life situations or by using parental reports.

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Series: Journal of communication disorders
ISSN: 0021-9924
ISSN-E: 1873-7994
ISSN-L: 0021-9924
Volume: 73
Pages: 91 - 105
DOI: 10.1016/j.jcomdis.2018.01.006
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 515 Psychology
Funding: This study was supported by the Finnish Academy [grant numbers 127555, 276578] and The Alma and K. A. Snellman Foundation, Oulu, Finland.
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 127555
Detailed Information: 127555 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
276578 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © 2018 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (