Loukusa, S., Gabbatore, I., Kotila, A.R., Dindar, K., Mäkinen, L., Leinonen, E. et al. (2023) Non-linguistic comprehension, social inference and empathizing skills in autistic young adults, young adults with autistic traits and control young adults: Group differences and interrelatedness of skills. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 58, 1133–1147. https://doi.org/10.1111/1460-6984.12848
Non-linguistic comprehension, social inference and empathizing skills in autistic young adults, young adults with autistic traits and control young adults : group differences and interrelatedness of skills
|Author:||Loukusa, Soile1; Gabbatore, Ilaria2; Kotila, Aija R.1;|
1Research Unit of Logopedics, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
2GIPSI Research Group, Department of Psychology, University of Turin; Institute of Neurosciences of Turin, Italy
3Kathleen Lonsdale Institute for Human Health Research, Maynooth University, Maynooth, Ireland
4Research Unit of Clinical Medicine, Child Psychiatry, University of Oulu and Oulu University Hospital, Division of Psychology, VISE, Faculty of Education and Psychology, Oulu, Finland
5Research Unit of Clinical Medicine, Child Psychiatry, University of Oulu and Oulu University Hospital, Oulu, Finland
6Research Unit of Clinical Medicine, Psychiatry, Child Psychiatry, University of Oulu, Finland, Clinic of Child Psychiatry, Oulu University Hospital, Oulu, Finland
|Online Access:||PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.1 MB)|
|Persistent link:|| http://urn.fi/urn:nbn:fi-fe20230901115192
John Wiley & Sons,
|Publish Date:|| 2023-09-01
Background: Despite increasing knowledge of social communication skills of autistic peole, the interrelatedness of different skills such as non-linguistic comprehension, social inference and empathizing skills is not much known about. A better understanding of the complex interplay between different domains of social communication helps us to develop assessment protocols for individuals with social communication difficulties.
Aims: To compare the performances of autistic young adults, young adults with autistic traits identified in childhood and control young adults in social communication tasks measuring non-linguistic comprehension, social inference and empathizing skills. In addition, to examine associations between the different social communication measures.
Methods & Procedures: Autistic young adults (n = 34), young adults with autistic traits (n = 19) and control young adults (n = 36) completed the extra- and paralinguistic scales of the Assessment Battery for Communication (ABaCo), the Faux Pas Recognition Test, Social–Pragmatic Questions (SoPra) and the Empathy Quotient (EQ).
Outcomes & Results: Group differences were found in the performance in the ABaCo, SoPra and EQ scores. Compared with the control young adults, autistic young adults scored lower. The performance of the young adults in the autistic traits group fell in between the other two groups. There were no group differences in the Faux Pas Recognition Test. The variability within the groups was large in all measurements. In the control group, there was a significant correlation between EQ and SoPra scores and between the Faux Pas and SoPra scores. In the autistic group, a significant correlation was found between Faux Pas and SoPra scores. Also, other patterns were observed but these were not statistically significant.
Conclusions & Implications: The young adults with autistic traits fell in between the control and autistic young adults, highlighting the presence of the continuum in the terms of features of social communication. The results support other current research that suggests that theory of mind and other social communication skills may not be universally or widely impaired in all autistic individuals without cognitive deficits. Although all tasks examined social communication skills, only a small number of significant correlations were found between test scores. This highlights that clinical conclusions about a person’s social communication should be based on the outcomes of different types of methods measuring different aspects of social communication. It is clear that the interrelatedness of different social communication skills needs further research.
What This Paper Adds
What is already known on this subject: For successful communication, the ability to infer others’ emotions, intentions and mental states is crucial. Autistic people have difficulty with many aspects of social communication. However, the associations between different aspects of social communication need to be better understood.
What this paper adds to existing knowledge: The unique contribution of this study is to compare the performance of autistic people not only with that of a control group but also with people with childhood autistic traits. This provides an understanding of the interrelatedness of different social communication skills in people with varying degrees of autistic traits.
This study used four assessment methods focusing on three different social communication elements (non-linguistic comprehension, social inference and empathizing skills). These elements have complex relationships to one another, some being closely overlapping, some more distally related and some reflect more complex multifactorial elements. This study shows that although groups differ from each other in most of the assessments, the performance of different groups overlapped showing that many autistic young adults can perform well in non-linguistic and social inference tasks in structured assessment contexts.
What are the potential or actual clinical implications of this work? Our findings suggest that in the assessment of social communication, self-reports and clinical assessments can be used effectively together. They can complement each other, pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of a person, leading to more personalized therapeutic interventions.
International journal of language & communication disorders
|Pages:||1133 - 1147|
|Type of Publication:||
A1 Journal article – refereed
|Field of Science:||
616 Other humanities
This study was financially supported by the Academy of Finland (grant number 276578), strategic research funding from the University of Oulu (Eudaimonia), the Alma and K. A. Snellman Foundation, Oulu, Finland, and Compagnia di San Paolo: Bando Ex-post, University of Turin (grant number D11G19000220007).
|Academy of Finland Grant Number:||
276578 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Research data are not shared because the permission of the study does not allow data sharing.
© 2023 The Authors. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.