Inner speech impairments in autism

J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2006 Aug;47(8):857-65. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2006.01624.x.


Background: Three experiments investigated the role of inner speech deficit in cognitive performances of children with autism.

Methods: Experiment 1 compared children with autism with ability-matched controls on a verbal recall task presenting pictures and words. Experiment 2 used pictures for which the typical names were either single syllable or multisyllable. Two encoding conditions manipulated the use of verbal encoding. Experiment 3 employed a task-switching paradigm for which performance has been shown to be contingent upon inner speech.

Results: In Experiment 1, children with autism demonstrated a lower picture-superiority effect compared to controls. In Experiment 2, the children with autism showed a lower word-length effect when pictures were presented alone, but a more substantial word-length effect in a condition requiring overt labelling. In Experiment 3, articulatory suppression affected the task-switching performance of the control participants only.

Conclusions: Individuals with autism have limitations in their use of inner speech.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attention
  • Autistic Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Autistic Disorder / psychology
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological
  • Intelligence Tests
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Language Development Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Language Development Disorders / psychology
  • Male
  • Mental Recall*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual*
  • Problem Solving
  • Reference Values
  • Semantics*
  • Speech Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Speech Disorders / psychology
  • Verbal Behavior
  • Verbal Learning*