Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 193-204

First online:

“The Frog Ate the Bug and Made his Mouth Sad”: Narrative Competence in Children with Autism

  • Lisa CappsAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of California
  • , Molly LoshAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of CaliforniaDepartment of Psychology, University of California
  • , Christopher ThurberAffiliated withPhillips Exeter Academy

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This study compares the narrative abilities of 13 children with autism, 13 children with developmental delays, and 13 typically developing children matched on language ability. Although groups did not differ in their use of causal language or internal state terms, children with autism and children with developmental delays were less likely than typical children to identify the causes of characters' internal states. Rather, they tended simply to label emotions and explain actions. Children with autism and children with developmental delays also relied on a more restricted range of evaluative devices, which both convey point of view and maintain listener involvement. In addition, the narrative abilities of children with autism were linked to performance on measures of theory of mind and an index of conversational competence, whereas this was not the case among children with developmental delays. Findings are discussed in relation to the social, cognitive, and emotional underpinnings and consequences of narrative activity.

Autism narrative theory of mind conversational competence