Brief report: pragmatic language in autism spectrum disorder: relationships to measures of ability and disability

J Autism Dev Disord. 2009 Feb;39(2):388-93. doi: 10.1007/s10803-008-0618-y. Epub 2008 Jul 15.


Pragmatic language skill is regarded as an area of universal deficit in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), but little is known about factors related to its development and how it in turn might contribute to skills needed to function in everyday contexts or to the expression of ASD-related symptoms. This study investigated these relationships in 37 high-functioning children with ASD. Multiple regression analyses revealed that structural language skills significantly predicted pragmatic language performance, but also that a significant portion of variance in pragmatic scores could not be accounted for by structural language or nonverbal cognition. Pragmatic language scores, in turn, accounted for significant variance in ADOS Communication and Socialization performance, but did not uniquely predict level of communicative or social adaptive functioning on the Vineland. These findings support the notion of pragmatic language impairment as integral to ASD but also highlight the need to measure pragmatic skills in everyday situations, to target adaptive skills in intervention and to intervene in functional, community-based contexts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Aptitude
  • Autistic Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Autistic Disorder / psychology*
  • Child
  • Cognition*
  • Communication
  • Humans
  • Intelligence
  • Language Development Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Language Development Disorders / psychology
  • Language Tests
  • Language*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Regression Analysis
  • Social Adjustment
  • Social Behavior
  • Socialization
  • Verbal Behavior*