Thursday, March 31, 2016

Language and Speech in Autism: Annual Review of Linguistics

Language and Speech in Autism

Annual Review of Linguistics

Vol. 2: 413-425 (Volume publication date January 2016)
First published online as a Review in Advance on November 4, 2015
DOI: 10.1146/annurev-linguistics-030514-124824
Morton Ann Gernsbacher,1 Emily M. Morson,2 and Elizabeth J. Grace3
1Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin 53706; email:
2Departments of Psychology and Neuroscience, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana 47405; email:
3Department of Special Education, National Louis University, Chicago, Illinois 60603; email:
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Autism is a developmental disability characterized by atypical social interaction, interests or body movements, and communication. Our review examines the empirical status of three communication phenomena believed to be unique to autism: pronoun reversal (using the pronoun you when the pronoun I is intended, and vice versa), echolalia (repeating what someone has said), and a reduced or even reversed production-comprehension lag (a reduction or reversal of the well-established finding that speakers produce less sophisticated language than they can comprehend). Each of these three phenomena has been claimed to be unique to autism; therefore, each has been proposed to be diagnostic of autism, and each has been interpreted in autism-centric ways (psychoanalytic interpretations of pronoun reversal, behaviorist interpretations of echolalia, and clinical lore about the production-comprehension lag). However, as our review demonstrates, none of these three phenomena is in fact unique to autism; none can or should serve as diagnostic of autism, and all call into question unwarranted assumptions about autistic persons and their language development and use.

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