Narrative competence across autism spectrum conditions

On April 19, 2017 by Kristen Schroeder

Researchers: Kristen Schroeder and Miriam Garcia Subirats


In this project we assess narrative competence across autism spectrum conditions (ASC) through a wordless storybook narrative task. Following Banney et al (2015), our study design consists of transcribing and annotating the storybook task of the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS). Narratives allow us to explore even subtle language difficulties among persons with high levels of language, assessing both grammatical complexity as well as the ways in which the individual refers to characters and events in the story to create a story grammar.

Preliminary results:

So far, we have assessed the narrative abilities of 15 high-functioning children on the autism spectrum, aged 7-12 years old and 15 typically- developing controls, matched on verbal IQ and age. For each participant, we rated the quality of the narratives based on how complete and informative they were. In tandem, we catalogued the child’s repertoire and frequency of different grammatical constructions in the nominal, verbal and clausal domains as well as noting any errors therein. Our preliminary results suggest that the ASC participants do not have a greater rate of grammatical errors, however there are differences in the way in which they narrate the story, such as using shorter, less complex sentences with less anaphoric reference. We also identified a correlation between rate of anaphoric reference and overall narrative quality, suggesting that anaphoric competence may be necessary to build adequate narratives.


Soon, we will be expanding on this study to compare these narratives which are grounded in the 3rd Person (i.e. about others) to those which are grounded in the 1st Person (from one’s own perspective). We will be exploring competencies in relating self related facts, habitual actions and episodic events with the prediction that narratives in the 1st person perspective will be more difficult for the ASC population than other kinds of self-related information telling as well as more difficult than narratives in the 3rd person.


[Art credit: Her mother by Susan Brown (2015). Susan Brown is an autistic artist from New York]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *