An alternative view of pronominal errors in autistic children
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Persistent pronominal errors in autistic children have been attributed either to a psychosocial deficit or to a linguistic or cognitive deficit. However, recent studies of normal children suggest that the failure to observe pronouns in speech addressed to another person is a major reason children show pronominal errors. The present study investigated if pronominal errors in autistic children can be explained by this alternative hypothesis. Children's attentiveness to the pronoun models and their imitative behaviors were examined under two modeling conditions. The nonaddressee condition provided children with systematic opportunities to observe pronoun models directed to another person as well as those directed to themselves. The addressee condition provided only systematic opportunities to observe pronoun models directed to children. Clear evidence for the alternative hypothesis was obtained for second person pronouns, suggesting that pronominal errors in autistic children can be interpreted within the framework of normal language development.
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