Non-social teaching for non-social learners: a non-social and non-interactive verb-learning paradigm for children with ASD
McDermott, Elizabeth Clare
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Children with ASD suffer from language deficits that are in part due to impaired social abilities. In the current study, we test a non-social and noninteractive method for teaching word meanings. If successful, this technique will expand the ways we teach early vocabulary that would shape intervention and improve the quality of life and the future prospects of children with ASD. First, the participants (ages 26.09 - 47.37) listen to a series of transitive or intransitive sentences while watching an unrelated silent animation. These sentence types carry different meanings; transitive verbs describe causative actions, and intransitive verbs describe synchronous actions. Then they are asked to map the verb to meaning by finding the relevant action out of two candidate scenes. We analyze the children’s direction of gaze. The results revealed that children with ASD in this sample who heard transitive sentences in maximally non-social and non-interactive contexts did not show a significant preference for the causative scene in either test condition. Additional data will reveal whether children with ASD can learn from non-social presentation of novel words if given multiple exposures to the test scenes. This work will provide insight into the mechanisms underlying word learning in children with ASD and, if successful, provide the foundation for research into a new kind of non-social intervention that capitalizes on these children’s strengths.
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