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Utah's Foremost Platform for Undergraduate Research Presentation
2015 Abstracts

Content-Form Trade-offs in the Spontaneous Stories Told by Chi ldren with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): Implications for Assessment and Instruction

Samantha DeLucchi, Telesha Fricke, Kamilla Okey and Brigid Crotty, Utah State University


Children with ASD often experience marked difficulty achieving proficiency in narration, and often require explicit instruction to learn this important discourse skill. The present study was designed to extend the work of Colozzo et al., 2011 by examining the relationship between content and form in the narratives of school-age children with ASD as they participated in a narrative intervention program to improve their knowledge of story structure and ultimately, to improve their ability to create coherent, organized narratives. Children received two, individual, 50-minute intervention sessions weekly for a period of about 7 – 11 weeks. Children were asked to make up their own stories once weekly. These stories were scored for narrative proficiency and for grammatical accuracy. Findings revealed that prior to beginning narrative treatment, all of the children’s grammatical accuracy was high while their narrative proficiency scores were low. In the first weeks of treatment, all children experienced a significant decrease in grammatical accuracy (<70%), however their narrative scores were observed to increase. Narrative proficiency scores continued to increase and become stable for all children. Interestingly, grammatical accuracy returned to normal (90% or greater) during the last weeks of intervention as children’s narrative proficiency became stable. The findings from this study support the presence of a content-form tradeoff, as children learn difficult linguistic skills, other skills that are ordinarily stable, may fluctuate until the new skill is mastered. The absence of grammatical errors may not be taken as an indication that the student is proficient in constructing a coherent, organized narrative. Further implications are discussed.