Emily Kunz, Shea Long, Melany Reeder, and Brigid Crotty, Utah State University
It has been proposed that asking a child to make up their own story, rather than to retell a story, is a more stringent test of narrative ability and may tax the linguistic system revealing weaknesses not apparent in less difficult contexts (eg., retelling stories). At least one study has shown that children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) experience content-form tradeoffs as they master narrative discourse (DeLucchi, Fricke, Kaye, Crotty and Gillam, 2015). The content-form tradeoff was observed when children with ASD with typical grammatical skills and poor narrative proficiency were shown to experience significant grammatical difficulties as they mastered narrative discourse. The purpose of this study was to determine whether content-form trade-offs were observed in stories children with ASD were asked to retell. Five children with ASD ranging in age from 9-12 were asked to retell stories weekly, during a baseline and narrative treatment period over the course of 12-16 weeks. The stories were scored for grammaticality and narrative proficiency. Story retells were observed to be grammatical whether elicited during baseline, early, mid or later treatment sessions. Children with lower language skills experienced times when they were completely unable to recall a story, particularly early on in instruction, although when they did, they experienced good grammatical accuracy. Children with higher language skills were always able to remember parts of the story and were highly grammatical. The story model (retell) may make it less difficult for students with ASD to focus on and remember content while also maintaining grammatical accuracy.