Over the past several decades, there have been a number of significant studies done on children who show signs of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD is an umbrella term referring a disorder that ranges in severity from autism to Asperger syndrome.
Researchers have focused on many different aspects of this disorder, but one of the most pertinent aspects is that of language. Language difficulties are a common element that coincides with all dimensions of ASD except for Asperger syndrome. Some researchers formerly thought that autism’s primary feature was language impairment, but in recent studies, 40% of children who were impaired early in childhood were verbally fluent by late childhood. Another study showed that out of 1,000 subjects, only 9% showed a complete absence of language. One of the reasons for this study was to show that children with ASD are not always non-verbal and that there is a good chance they will have some sort of communication in their life.
In this study, researches looked at how a child with ASD understands new words when associated with an object compared to how a typically developing (TD) child would respond when put in the same position. The researchers wanted to observe children with cognition, social engagement, and early language difficulties, and their abilities to negotiate a series of word learning situations. These tests not only tested whether or not an ASD child could identify an object by a certain name, but also test if the child could identify that object when it was introduced while the child’s attention was elsewhere. It is expected that children with ASD will show closely related results with TD children and that some children with ASD can use social information to guide their word–object mapping.
Participants of this study were gathered through ongoing studies that were focused on young children at risk for having autism spectrum disorder. The studies were done at the University of Michigan Autism and Communication Disorders Center (UMACC). Some children that were already currently being screened at the clinic were used in the study. Also, fliers were posted in local day cares to request additional children for the typically developing group. Each child, ASD and TD alike, had to complete a familiar object entry task, thus allowing a ride range of children who were appropriately fit to participate in the study. During this small entry task, the child was presented with one known object and two distracters. The child was then asked to preform a simple task (e.g. “Can you put the dog in the bucket?”) The conclusion from this simple task was that if the child was unable to preform this task with a known object, the results from the rest of the tests with unknown objects would be meaningless and invalid. The children that failed to complete the entry task were excluded from the study. These children that did not pass the entry task were developmentally younger and had...