Toddlers with Autism Spectrum Disorder Can Use Language to Update Their Expectations About the World
This study examined if two-year-olds with ASD can update mental representations on the basis of verbal input. In an eye-tracking study, toddlers with ASD and typically-developing nonverbal age-matched controls were exposed to visual or verbal information about a change in a recently encoded scene, followed by an outcome that was either congruent or incongruent with that information. Findings revealed that both groups looked longer at incongruent outcomes, regardless of information modality, and despite the fact that toddlers with ASD had significantly lower measured verbal abilities than TD toddlers. This demonstrates that, although there is heterogeneity on the individual level, young toddlers with ASD can succeed in updating their mental representations on the basis of verbal input in a low-demand task.
KeywordsRepresentations Updating Receptive language Language comprehension
We thank the Autism, Behavior, and Child Development Lab Assessment Team with their help with clinical assessments as well as the families that participated in this study. Portions of this manuscript were presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research 2017.
AF conceived of the study, participated in its design, conducted the statistical analysis, and drafted the manuscript; AV participated in the design and coordination of the study and conducted assessment measures; PAG conceived of the study and participated in the design; ASC participated in the coordination of the study and helped conduct statistical analysis; ZK conceived of the study, participated in its design and helped to draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
This project was supported by a Seed Grant from the Simons Foundation under the auspices of the Simons Center for the Social Brain at MIT (#319294) to Z. Kaldy, and US Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Grant #R40MC26195 to A. S. Carter.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Institutional Review Board of the University of Massachusetts Boston and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
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