, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 15-28

Recall for Self and Other in Autism: Children's Memory for Events Experienced by Themselves and Their Peers

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Research on memory processing suggests that memory for events that an individual experiences should be superior to that for similar events that someone else experiences (e.g., Baker-Ward et al., 1990). However, such predictions may not be applicable to individuals with autism. There are already suggestions that individuals with autism have specific difficulties in remembering (Boucher & Lewis, 1989). In addition, they are known to have more general difficulties involving processes related to the “self.” If children with autism have difficulties in encoding information about themselves this could result in a deficit in personal episodic memory. The studies reported here compare memory for personally experienced events with that of memory for events experienced by a peer. An adaption of a method devised by Boucher and Lewis has been employed to assess recall. Two separate studies were conducted to investigate whether children with autism are impaired at recalling personal events. Two groups of children took part in Study 1, a group of children with autism and a control group of typical children matched for verbal mental age. A group of children with moderate learning difficulties were employed in the second study to investigate whether the findings also occur in other groups of individuals who have learning disabilities. Findings indicate that, in the group with autism, events performed by the individual were recalled significantly less well than the observed events performed by a peer. However, the results for the nonautistic children in both studies showed that the opposite was true. Theoretical claims are discussed in the light of these findings.