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J Speech Lang Hear Res. 2018 Dec 10;61(12):3023-3037. doi: 10.1044/2018_JSLHR-L-18-0008.

A Multimethod Analysis of Pragmatic Skills in Children and Adolescents With Fragile X Syndrome, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Down Syndrome.

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Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, St. John's University, Staten Island, NY.
Roxelyn and Richard Pepper Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL.
Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of South Carolina, Columbia.



Pragmatic language skills are often impaired above and beyond general language delays in individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities. This study used a multimethod approach to language sample analysis to characterize syndrome- and sex-specific profiles across different neurodevelopmental disabilities and to examine the congruency of 2 analysis techniques.


Pragmatic skills of young males and females with fragile X syndrome with autism spectrum disorder (FXS-ASD, n = 61) and without autism spectrum disorder (FXS-O, n = 40), Down syndrome (DS, n = 42), and typical development (TD, n = 37) and males with idiopathic autism spectrum disorder only (ASD-O, n = 29) were compared using variables obtained from a detailed hand-coding system contrasted with similar variables obtained automatically from the language analysis program Systematic Analysis of Language Transcripts (SALT).


Noncontingent language and perseveration were characteristic of the pragmatic profiles of boys and girls with FXS-ASD and boys with ASD-O. Boys with ASD-O also initiated turns less often and were more nonresponsive than other groups, and girls with FXS-ASD were more nonresponsive than their male counterparts. Hand-coding and SALT methods were largely convergent with some exceptions.


Results suggest both similarities and differences in the pragmatic profiles observed across different neurodevelopmental disabilities, including idiopathic and FXS-associated cases of ASD, as well as an important sex difference in FXS-ASD. These findings and congruency between the 2 language sample analysis techniques together have important implications for assessment and intervention efforts.

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