A duck wearing boots?! pragmatic language strategies for repairing communication breakdowns across genetically based neurodevelopmental disabilities

Jamie Barstein, Gary E. Martin, Michelle Lee, Molly Losh*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Purpose: The ability to repair breakdowns in communication is an important pragmatic language skill that helps to maintain clear and meaningful interactions. Examining this ability in genetically based neurodevelopmental disabilities in which pragmatics are affected can provide important information about the precise pragmatic skills impacted across different populations and also help to identify core mechanisms underlying pragmatic impairment that may inform tailored interventions. Method: Individuals with idiopathic autism spectrum disorder (ASD-O; n = 40), fragile X syndrome with comorbid autism spectrum disorder (FXS-ASD; n = 62), FXS without ASD (FXS-O; n = 38), Down syndrome (DS; n = 43), and typical development (TD; n = 42) completed a picture description task in which an examiner prompted for clarification repeatedly to elicit communication repair attempts. Participants’ response strategies were compared across diagnostic groups and by sex and examined in relationship to different cognitive abilities. Results: Relatively few group differences were observed in responses to requests for clarification overall. Males with ASD-O responded less to clarification requests than males with FXS-ASD and FXS-O, and males with FXS-ASD responded more inappropriately than males with ASD-O and DS. All male groups became less responsive to prompts for communication repair across the series of requests. Males with TD and FXS-ASD used less effective strategies than females. Conclusion: All groups showed some proficiency in repairing communication breakdowns, although individuals with ASD-O and FXS-ASD demonstrated some key areas of difficulty, highlighting the importance of considering ASD symptomatology in assessment and treatment of males with FXS. Findings also suggest that, across groups, multiple requests for clarification may lead to disengagement from the interaction. Finally, correlated skills observed across groups could implicate different underlying skills related to communication repair abilities across groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1440-1454
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Speech and Hearing
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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