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Conversation During a Virtual Reality Task Reveals New Structural Language Profiles of Children with ASD, ADHD, and Comorbid Symptoms of Both

Abstract

Many studies have utilized standardized measures and storybook narratives to characterize language profiles of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). They report that structural language of these children is on par with mental-age-matched typically developing (TD) peers. Few studies have looked at structural language profiles in conversational contexts. This study examines conversational speech produced in a virtual reality (VR) paradigm to investigate the strengths and weaknesses of structural language abilities of these children. The VR paradigm introduced varying social and cognitive demands across phases. Our results indicate that children from these diagnostic groups produced less complex structural language than TD children. Moreover, language complexity decreased in all groups across phases, suggesting a cross-etiology sensitivity to conversational contexts.

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Acknowledgments

We thank all of the children and their families who participated in this research, as well as the dedicated students who transcribed the audio files. This research was supported by grants from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIHDCD R01DC016665) and the Institute of Education Sciences (IES R324A110174).

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PM and NM contributed to the study design and development. Data collection was performed by the UC Davis MIND Institute team (PM and NM). Data preparation was completed by NA and CB, and analyses were performed by CB, both in consultation with LN. Manuscript writing was led by CB and LN. All authors contributed to the manuscript writing, revisions, and approval of the final manuscript submitted.

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Correspondence to Cynthia Boo.

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Boo, C., Alpers-Leon, N., McIntyre, N. et al. Conversation During a Virtual Reality Task Reveals New Structural Language Profiles of Children with ASD, ADHD, and Comorbid Symptoms of Both. J Autism Dev Disord (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-021-05175-6

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Keywords

  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Comorbidity
  • Conversational context
  • Virtual reality paradigm