The Extent to which Nonverbal Children with Autism Acquire the Production and Comprehension of Syntax through a Computer-Based Language Intervention
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Children with no expressive language find it difficult to function within the world; hence, increasing the communication ability of a nonverbal child with autism can have a large impact on their daily life (Goldstein, 2002). The current intervention assessed the extent to which nonverbal children with autism were able to acquire the syntactic production through a computer-based language programme, The Eventaurs. No published study has attempted to do this. Comprehension tests, created using words form the programme, were used to measure the extent to which participants could understand the syntactic forms they sequenced. This allowed for the production and comprehension capabilities of 6 nonverbal children with autism to be systematically compared. The performances of the participants varied widely. JS was unable achieve any syntactic production, and had equally limited comprehension. BN did not acquire any syntactic production, and did not respond to most of the comprehension tests. JC was able to produce and partially understand the two-word syntactic form, but was unable to transfer his knowledge to new stimuli. HL and LS partially acquired the noun-verb form, but neither showed an understanding of the sequences they produced, nor could they transfer their knowledge to new stimuli. CD was able to successfully achieve four-word syntactic production, which was matched by his comprehension. Overall, participants’ syntactic abilities were dissociated from their linguistic abilities, supporting the narrow faculty of language (Hauser, Chomsky and Fitch, 2002). The Eventaurs was able to distinguish superior language ability in 1 in 6 individuals with autism, and could be used a powerful diagnostic tool.