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    Struggling with alternative descriptions: Impaired referential processing in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

    Ostashchenko, E ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4817-5753, Geelhand, P, Deliens, G and Kissine, M (2019) Struggling with alternative descriptions: Impaired referential processing in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 66. ISSN 1750-9467

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    Abstract

    Background: Children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) show a tendency to preferentially rely on those referential descriptions that have previously been used by their conversational partner. However, such a tendency may become maladaptive in a situation of interaction with different partners who may introduce alternative lexical descriptions for the same referent. Methods: Six-year-old children with ASD, as well as mental- and verbal-age-matched typically developing (TD) children moved items on a touch-screen following instructions by an experimenter. During the entrainment phase, the experimenter introduced lexical descriptions for all the items. Then, either the original experimenter or a new partner, depending on the condition, used alternative descriptions for some items and kept the same descriptions for others. Accuracy and time to locate items were collected. Results: Relative to TD children, children with ASD had more difficulty in recognizing and interpreting referential descriptions when another description has been previously used. Whether a new description was introduced by a new or the original experimenter had no effect in any group. Conclusion: Referential processing in ASD is compromised by impaired ability to confront alternative conceptual perspectives. A potential executive source for these difficulties is discussed.

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