Spontaneous peer conversation in preschoolers with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder versus typical development

Nirit Bauminger-Zviely, Eynat Karin, Yael Kimhi, Galit Agam-Ben-Artzi

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Background In typical development, early peer talk is crucial for pragmatic development. The pragmatic deficit, reflected in remarkably deficient conversational capabilities, is considered the hallmark of the language deficit in autism spectrum disorder (ASD); yet, spontaneous peer talk in preschoolers with ASD was rarely explored. Method We conducted comparative assessment of spontaneous peer talk during 10-min free-play scenarios in preschoolers with high-functioning ASD (HFASD; n = 27) versus those with typical development (n = 30). Groups were matched on SES, verbal/nonverbal MA, IQ, and CA. Correlations with CA, IQ, VMA, and NVMA were examined. We compared the two groups' interactions with a friend-partner versus a nonfriend partner; in addition, in the HFASD group, we examined interactions with a typical partner (mixed dyads) versus a partner with HFASD (nonmixed dyads). Children's conversations were videotaped and coded to tap pragmatic capabilities and conversational quality. Results Findings revealed group differences in pragmatic abilities and conversational quality, with the typical group showing more intact capacities than the HFASD group. However, in the HFASD group, interactions with friends surpassed interactions with nonfriends on several key pragmatic capabilities and on all conversational quality measures (meshing, assertiveness, and responsiveness), thus suggesting that friendship may enable children to converse in a more socially complex and coregulated way. Also, children with higher cognitive capabilities, especially in the HFASD group, demonstrated more intact pragmatic capacities. Conclusion Despite the robust pragmatic deficit in HFASD, reflected in conversational capabilities, involvement in friendship relationships and high cognitive capabilities were linked to more intact pragmatic capacities. Theoretical and therapeutic implications are discussed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)363-373
    Number of pages11
    JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Apr 2014


    • High-functioning children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
    • friendship
    • pragmatics
    • preschool
    • social conversation

    All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

    • Psychiatry and Mental health
    • Developmental and Educational Psychology
    • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


    Dive into the research topics of 'Spontaneous peer conversation in preschoolers with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder versus typical development'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this