Social effects on a linguistic mechanism in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Children and adults with one of the group of pervasive developmental disorders known as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) have difficulties with language and social interaction. Language problems are especially disabling, as most activities rely on language. Katherine Yoshida is researching whether the ability to learn language is impaired in people with ASD because it is generally learned through social cues and interaction. Children, for example, may follow a parent’s eye movement to associate a word with an object. But children with ASD often do not make eye contact. Katherine is investigating whether reliance on social interaction to develop language impedes learning in people with ASD. The research could confirm that people with ASD learn language more effectively in non-social settings, and the results could be used to develop alternative learning strategies that improve communication abilities in people with ASD.