Signaling of noncomprehension in communication breakdowns in fragile X syndrome, Down syndrome, and autism spectrum disorder

Gary E. Martin*, Jamie Barstein, Jane Hornickel, Sara Matherly, Genna Durante, Molly Losh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The ability to indicate a failure to understand a message is a critical pragmatic (social) language skill for managing communication breakdowns and supporting successful communicative exchanges. The current study examined the ability to signal noncomprehension across different types of confusing message conditions in children and adolescents with fragile X syndrome (FXS), Down syndrome (DS), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and typical development (TD). Controlling for nonverbal mental age and receptive vocabulary skills, youth with comorbid FXS and ASD and those with DS were less likely than TD controls to signal noncomprehension of confusing messages. Youth with FXS without ASD and those with idiopathic ASD did not differ from controls. No sex differences were detected in any group. Findings contribute to current knowledge of pragmatic profiles in different forms of genetically-based neurodevelopmental disorders associated with intellectual disability, and the role of sex in the expression of such profiles. Learning outcomes Upon completion of this article, readers will have learned about: (1) the social-communicative profiles of youth with FXS, DS, and ASD, (2) the importance of signaling noncomprehension in response to a confusing message, and (3) the similarities and differences in noncomprehension signaling in youth with FXS (with and without ASD), DS, idiopathic ASD, and TD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)22-34
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Communication Disorders
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Communication breakdown
  • Down syndrome
  • Fragile X syndrome
  • Noncomprehension
  • Pragmatic language

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Speech and Hearing
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • LPN and LVN
  • Linguistics and Language


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