The Role of Maternal Input in the Development of Wh-Question Comprehension in Autism and Typical Development

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Social deficits have been implicated in the language delays and deficits of children with autism (ASD); thus, the extent to which these children use language input in social contexts similarly to typically developing (TD) children is unknown. The
  Ђ ۣ۩ۦۢٷ۠ ۣۚ Ө ۜ۝۠ۘ ۋٷۢۛ۩ٷۛۙ ۜۨۨۤ ҖҖ ۞ۣ۩ۦۢٷ۠ۧ ғ ۗٷۡۖۦ۝ۘۛۙ ғ ۣۦۛ ҖЂӨ ۋۆۘۘ۝ۨ۝ۣۢٷ۠ ۧۙۦ۪۝ۗۙۧ ۚۣۦ ẺỀẽẹẬặ Ẻằ ̀ẳẴặắ ẬẹẲỀẬẲẰ ٮۡٷ۝۠ ٷ۠ۙۦۨۧ Ө ۠۝ۗ۟ ۜۙۦۙۑ۩ۖۧۗۦ۝ۤۨ۝ۣۢۧ Ө ۠۝ۗ۟ ۜۙۦۙ Ө ۣۡۡۙۦۗ۝ٷ۠ ۦۙۤۦ۝ۢۨۧ Ө ۠۝ۗ۟ ۜۙۦۙےۙۦۡۧ ۣۚ ۩ۧۙ  Ө ۠۝ۗ۟ ۜۙۦۙ ےۜۙ ۦۣ۠ۙ ۣۚ ۡٷۨۙۦۢٷ۠ ۝ۢۤ۩ۨ ۝ۢ ۨۜۙ ۘۙ۪ۙ۠ۣۤۡۙۢۨ ۣۚ Ểẳ Ғ ۥ۩ۙۧۨ۝ۣۢ ۗۣۡۤۦۙۜۙۢۧ۝ۣۢ ۝ۢ ٷ۩ۨ۝ۧۡ ٷۢۘۨۺۤ۝ۗٷ۠ ۘۙ۪ۙ۠ۣۤۡۙۢۨ ۆ І ےٱۍ І ﯦ ٰۍۍ ө ەٲ І ۃ ө ٮ ψ ۍېۆٱ ٯٮٲ І  ٷۢۘ ۋٮےٲےٲۆ І ۆٲٰۋٮۑ Ђ ۣ۩ۦۢٷ۠ ۣۚ Ө ۜ۝۠ۘ ۋٷۢۛ۩ٷۛۙ Җ  ۔ۣ۠۩ۡۙ ھ Җ  ٲۧۧ۩ۙ ڼڽ Җ   Ђ ٷۢ۩ٷۦۺ ھڼڽ Ң ۃ ۤۤ ڿھ Ғ  ڿ ө ۍٲ ڽڼ ғ ڽڼڽ Җ ۑڼڿڼ Ң ڼڼڼۂڽڿڼڼڼ Ң ھۃ ێ۩ۖ۠۝ۧۜۙۘ ۣۢ۠۝ۢۙ ھ Ђ ٷۢ۩ٷۦۺ ھڼڽ ۋ۝ۢ۟ ۨۣ ۨۜ۝ۧ ٷۦۨ۝ۗ۠ۙۃ ۜۨۨۤ ҖҖ ۞ۣ۩ۦۢٷ۠ۧ ғ ۗٷۡۖۦ۝ۘۛۙ ғ ۣۦۛ Җ ٷۖۧۨۦٷۗۨٵۑڼڿڼ Ң ڼڼڼۂڽڿڼڼڼ Ң ھ ٱۣ۫ ۨۣ ۗ۝ۨۙ ۨۜ۝ۧ ٷۦۨ۝ۗ۠ۙۃ ۆ І ےٱۍ І ﯦ ٰۍۍ ө ەٲ І ۃ ө ٮ ψ ۍېۆٱ ٯٮٲ І  ٷۢۘ ۋٮےٲےٲۆ І ۆٲٰۋٮۑ ھڼڽ Ң ۀ ғ  ےۜۙ ۦۣ۠ۙۣۚ ۡٷۨۙۦۢٷ۠ ۝ۢۤ۩ۨ ۝ۢ ۨۜۙ ۘۙ۪ۙ۠ۣۤۡۙۢۨ ۣۚ Ểẳ Ғ ۥ۩ۙۧۨ۝ۣۢ ۗۣۡۤۦۙۜۙۢۧ۝ۣۢ ۝ۢ ٷ۩ۨ۝ۧۡ ٷۢۘۨۺۤ۝ۗٷ۠ ۘۙ۪ۙ۠ۣۤۡۙۢۨ ғ   Ђ ۣ۩ۦۢٷ۠ ۣۚ Ө ۜ۝۠ۘ ۋٷۢۛ۩ٷۛۙۃ ھۃ ۤۤ ڿھ Ғ ڿ ۘۣ۝ڽڼ ғ ڽڼڽ Җ ۑڼڿڼ Ң ڼڼڼۂڽڿڼڼڼ Ң ھ ېۙۥ۩ۙۧۨ ێۙۦۡ۝ۧۧ۝ۣۢۧ ۃ Ө ۠۝ۗ۟ ۜۙۦۙ ө ۣ۫ۢ۠ۣٷۘۙۘ ۚۦۣۡ ۜۨۨۤۃ  ҖҖ ۞ۣ۩ۦۢٷ۠ۧ ғ ۗٷۡۖۦ۝ۘۛۙ ғ ۣۦۛ  ҖЂӨ ۋ ٲێ ٷۘۘۦۙۧۧۃ ھۀ ғ ڽہڿ ғ ۂۂ ғ ھۀ ۣۢ ڼ ө ۙۗ ھڼڽۀ  The role of maternal input in the development of  wh -question comprehension in autism andtypical development* ANTHONY GOODWIN, DEBORAH FEIN AND  LETITIA NAIGLES University of Connecticut ( Received     September    –  Revised     August   –   Accepted     October    –  First published online    January   ) ABSTRACT Social de fi cits have been implicated in the language delays and de fi citsof children with autism (ASD); thus, the extent to which these childrenuse language input in social contexts similarly to typically developing(TD) children is unknown. The current study investigated how care-giver input in fl uenced the development of   wh -question comprehensionin TD children and language-matched preschoolers with ASD.Children were visited at four-month intervals over   .   years; mother  –  child play sessions at visits    –    were coded for maternal  wh -questionuse. At visits    –    children watched videos in the IntermodalPreferential Looking paradigm, to assess their comprehension of subjectand object  wh -questions. Mothers ’  use of   wh -questions with verbs andcomplex  wh -questions positively predicted  wh -question comprehensionin the TD group; in contrast, mothers ’  use of   wh -questions with  ‘ be ’  asthe main verb negatively predicted  wh -question comprehension in theASD group. Thus, TD children and children with ASD appear touse their linguistic input di ff  erently. [*] This research was funded by a grant from the National Institute on Deafness and OtherCommunication Disorders (Grant number: R   DC  ). We are grateful to RoseJa ff  ery and Janina Piotroski for assistance in stimulus creation and data collection, andto the undergraduates of the UConn Child Language Lab for coding and transcribing.We thank George Hollich for sharing the  wh -question IPL video with us, and WendyStone for making the STAT available to us. We appreciate the helpful commentaryreceived from Inge-Marie Eigsti, Alice Carter, William Snyder, and attendants atIMFAR, BUCLD, and the SRCD biennial meetings. Finally, many thanks are due tothe children and families who participated in our study. Address for correspondence:Anthony Goodwin, University of Connecticut  –   Department of Psychology,   Babbidge Road, Unit   , Storrs, Connecticut   -  , United States.  J. Child Lang.    (  ),    –   . © Cambridge University Press   doi:  .  /S    INTRODUCTION Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are usually delayedin the onset of their language development and frequently demonstrateimpairments of various subcomponents of language (Eigsti, Bennetto &Dadlani,   ; Tager-Flusberg,   ; Tager-Flusberg  et al  .,   ).These impairments are probably attributable, at least in part, to the well-attested di ffi culties that children with ASD have with social attention andinteraction. That is, if children do not pay attention to the people in theirenvironment, they are probably also not paying attention to the languagethose people are using, and so not tapping into the language data thosepeople are providing. Intervention thus frequently focuses on directingchildren with autism toward language input, and progress in language devel-opment is often seen once children begin such therapy (Lovaas,   ; Stone& Yoder,   ). Some recent studies have provided evidence of childrenwith ASD learning aspects of language  INCIDENTALLY , that is, fromlistening to regular social discourse (McDu ffi e & Yoder,   ; Swensen,Naigles & Fein,   ). Nonetheless, the extent to which children withASD utilize their language input in the same ways (e.g. exploiting thesame types of information) as typically developing (TD) children is stillunknown. The purpose of the current study was to investigate whetherchildren with ASD would show evidence of learning about some aspectsof   wh -questions from maternal input in naturalistic situations, as well as tocompare the kinds of input information used by TD children and thosewith ASD.From a pragmatic standpoint,  wh -questions typically ask for informationwhich is desired, but not known, by the speaker, and which the speakerassumes to be known by the addressee (Searle,   ). Syntactically, anEnglish  wh -question is an interrogative sentence that begins with a  ‘ Wh ’ word (e.g.  who, what, where, why, when ), which represents missinginformation.  Wh -questions can ask for a missing argument (   –   ) or anadjunct (  ):(  ) What did he eat?(  ) Who likes Mary?(  ) Who does Mary like?(  ) Why did he eat that?Because the  wh -word is almost always produced at the beginning of the sentence,  wh -questions deviate from the standard SVO word orderthat English-learning children acquire before two years of age (Gertner,Fisher & Eisengart,   ; Swensen, Kelley, Fein & Naigles,   ).Morphosyntactically, English object and adjunct  wh -questions involve theinclusion of auxiliaries (e.g.  do, can, shall, will  ) preceding the subject INPUT AND WH - QUESTIONS   (e.g. (  ), (  ), and (  ) above), unless the main verb is the copula, in which casethe subject and copula invert (e.g. (  )):(  ) Where is that man?Languages di ff  er as to whether movement is involved in question formation(de Villiers, Roeper & Vainikka,   ); for example, the  wh -word remains  insitu  in Mandarin (  ), while all main verbs invert in German (  ):(  ) Ni xihuan shei?you like who ‘ Who do you like? ’ (  )  Was glaubst du  mit wem Daniel spricht?what think you with whom Daniel talks ‘ Who do you think Daniel is talking with? ’ Wh -question development in TD children and those with ASD Young TD children begin producing  ‘ where ’  and  ‘ what ’  wh -questions by theage of    ;   to   ;   (e.g. Bloom, Merkin & Wooten,   ; Stromswold,   ;Tyack & Ingram,   ). These children ’ s earliest  wh -questions seem tobe tied to social routines (e.g.  ‘ What is that? ’ ,  ‘ Where is the [NP]? ’ ), withthe more sophisticated grammatical forms (e.g. subject and object wh -questions; inverted AUX) and speech acts (e.g. requests for information)becoming more frequent later in the third year of life (Ambridge, Rowland,Theakston & Tomasello,   ; Stromswold,   ). As is common in typicallanguage acquisition, children provide evidence of   UNDERSTANDING subject and object  wh -questions at earlier ages (i.e.   ;  ; Goodwin, Fein &Naigles,   ; Seidl, Hollich & Jusczyk,   ). Thus, the developmentof   wh -question use in TD children has been shown to follow a speci fi cprogression and a fairly rapid rate.In contrast,  wh -question production has been found to be both delayedand sparse in children with ASD. For example, Tager-Flusberg  et al  . ’ s(  ) longitudinal study of spontaneous speech produced by children withASD found that question (and negation) complexity was signi fi cantly lowerintheASDgrouprelativetocontrols,especiallyasutterancelengthincreased.When only their  wh -questions were scrutinized, these children producedmany fewer  wh -questions than language-matched peers (i.e.   % of utterancesvs.   ·  % of utterances for the controls; Tager-Flusberg,   ). Eigsti  et al  .(  ) also found lower question-and-negation complexity in the speech of  fi ve-year-olds with autism; moreover, these children produced higherfrequencies of some more complex question-and-negation forms, but lowerfrequencies of less complex forms, where the opposite pattern is what isexpected if development is proceeding typically. Taken together, these GOODWIN  ET AL .   fi ndings suggest that some children with ASD may acquire  wh -questionsvia a di ff  erent process than TD children; for example, they may rely onmemorizing item-speci fi c formats rather than analyzing the questions intotheir components and abstracting generalized  wh -question constructions.However, Goodwin  et al  . (  ) also investigated the development of the understanding of subject and object  wh -questions in children withASD, using intermodal preferential looking (IPL). They used Seidl  et al  . ’ s(  ) video, which showed transitive dynamic events (e.g. an apple hittinga  fl owerpot) followed by side-by-side static pictures of the participatingobjects (apple,  fl ower). The audios presented both subject and object wh -questions (e.g.  ‘ What hit the  fl ower? ’ ,  ‘ What did the apple hit? ’ ).Goodwin  et al  . found that the children with ASD demonstratedconsistent comprehension at approximately the same language level (albeitchronologically later) as the TD children. The children with ASD alsoexhibited stable comprehension of these questions prior to producing themin spontaneous speech, thereby manifesting the usual TD pattern of comprehension preceding production (Maratsos,   ; Snyder,   ;Swensen, Kelley,  et al  .,   ). These  fi ndings raise the possibility thatthese children with ASD were indeed extracting  wh -question patternsfrom their input. Caregiver input and children ’  s language development Research with TD children has explored how the lexical, grammatical, andpragmatic aspects of caregiver input subsequently a ff  ect a child ’ s languageacquisition. Caregivers vary in the quantity and diversity of input theyprovide to children, and researchers have found a number of e ff  ects of this variation on children ’ s subsequent grammatical production andcomprehension. For example, Newport, Gleitman, and Gleitman (  )found that mothers who used more  yes/no  questions, which highlightAUX verbs (e.g.  ‘ Do  you want more juice? ’ ), had children who subsequentlyused moreAUX verbs (see also Ho ff  -Ginsberg,   , for a similar facilitativee ff  ect of maternal  wh -questions, and Shatz, Ho ff  -Ginsberg & MacIver,   ,for experimental evidence). According to Rowland and colleagues, thenon-inversion errors in  wh -questions produced by TD children (e.g. ‘ What he is eating? ’ ) can be explained by variations in the input frequencyof speci fi c  wh -word/AUX pairs (e.g.  what is  vs.  what are ; Ambridge  et al  .,  ; Rowland, Pine, Lieven & Theakston,   ,   ; see also Valian &Casey,   ). Finally, studies have shown that hearing more complexsentences facilitates children ’ s production and comprehension of long andcomplex sentences (Gleitman, Newport & Gleitman,   ; Huttenlocher,Waterfall, Vasilyeva, Vevea & Hedges,   ; Vasilyeva, Huttenlocher &Waterfall,   ). INPUT AND WH - QUESTIONS 
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