Abstract: Language and Speech in Autism

GERNSBACHER, M. A. MORSON, E. M., & GRACE, E. J. (2016). Language and speech in autism. Annual Review of Linguistics, 2, 413-425.
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Autism is a developmental disability characterized by atypical social interaction, interests or body movements, and communication. Our review examines the empirical status of three communication phenomena believed to be unique to autism: pronoun reversal (using the pronoun you when the pronoun I is intended, and vice versa), echolalia (repeating what someone has said), and a reduced or even reversed production-comprehension lag (a reduction or reversal of the well-established finding that speakers produce less sophisticated language than they can comprehend). Each of these three phenomena has been claimed to be unique to autism; therefore, each has been proposed to be diagnostic of autism, and each has been interpreted in autism-centric ways (psychoanalytic interpretations of pronoun reversal, behaviorist interpretations of echolalia, and clinical lore about the productioncomprehension lag). However, as our review demonstrates, none of these three phenomena is in fact unique to autism; none can or should serve as diagnostic of autism, and all call into question unwarranted assumptions about autistic persons and their language development and use.