Difficulty processing social information is a defining feature of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Yet the failure of children with ASD to process social information effectively is poorly understood. Using Crick and Dodge's model of social information processing (SIP), this study examined the relationship between social-emotional (SE) skills of pragmatic language, theory of mind, and emotion recognition on the one hand, and early stage SIP skills of problem identification and goal generation on the other. The study included a sample of school-aged children with and without ASD. SIP was assessed using hypothetical social situations in the context of a semistructured scenario-based interview. Pragmatic language, theory of mind, and emotion recognition were measured using direct assessments. Social thinking differences between children with and without ASD are largely differences of quantity (overall lower performance in ASD), not discrepancies in cognitive processing patterns. These data support theoretical models of the relationship between SE skills and SIP. Findings have implications for understanding the mechanisms giving rise to SIP deficits in ASD and may ultimately inform treatment development for children with ASD.
Keywords: autism spectrum disorder; children; emotion recognition; pragmatic language; social information processing; theory of mind.
© 2015 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.