Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 177-197

Why and when do some language-impaired children seem talkative? A study of initiation in conversations of children with semantic-pragmatic disorder

  • Dorothy BishopAffiliated withUniversity of Manchester
  • , Joanne HartleyAffiliated withUniversity of Manchester
  • , Fiona WeirAffiliated withUniversity of Manchester

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Six language-impaired children fitting the clinical picture of semantic-pragmatic disorder (mean age 11 years) engaged in conversations with adults in four situations varying in terms of familiarity of the interlocutor (familiar or unfamiliar) and type of setting (interview or toy exploration). These children did not produce more utterances or longer utterances than normally developing children of similar age or ability, but they were more likely to produce utterances that served the conversational function of initiating, rather than responding or acknowledging. This tendency was most pronounced in the toy setting. There was a nonsignificant trend for control children to initiate more with a familiar than with an unfamiliar adult, but no such tendency in the semantic-pragmatic group. A high rate of initiations in children with semantic-pragmatic disorder cannot be regarded as an unusual behavior provoked by the demands of the interview setting, as it is even more apparent during toy exploration, where the child is under less pressure to respond to adult questions.