The impact of grammar on mentalizing: A training study including children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Developmental Language Disorder
Frontiers in Psychology
Training on complements in English, German, and Mandarin has been reported to trigger improvements on both complements and Theory of Mind (ToM), with typically developing (TD) pre-schoolers on the verge of developing these skills (Hale and Tager-Flusberg, 2003; Lohmann and Tomasello, 2003; Shuliang et al., 2014). In the current study, we build on the idea that increasing mastery of complementation holds the promise of enhancing ToM, and seek (i) to replicate the positive effects observed in previous work for this effect in French-speaking TD children, and (ii) to pilot extending this to clinical children, more specifically those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Developmental Language Disorder (DLD), through exploring whether improvement in the latter, clinical groups follows that of the TD group. Sixty children with ToM difficulties, 16 with ASD (aged 5;6–11;8), 20 with DLD (aged 4;8–9;0) and 24 typically developing children aged (2;9–5;3 years), participated in a 4-week training program. Half received training targeting sentential complements and half received a control training targeting lexical skills. Complementation training, but not lexical training, led to a significant direct increase in complements, and also had the indirect effect of significantly boosting belief reasoning. TD and clinical groups followed the same patterns of performance. These results confirm previous findings in other languages for TD, and further suggest promising new directions for therapeutic programs addressing ToM delays in populations of different aetiologies, namely the incorporation of a motivating training on complementation.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Developmental Language Disorder (DLD), Theory of Mind (ToM), sentential complements, training program
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© the authors
Durrleman, Stephanie; Burnel, Morgane; de Villiers, Jill; Thommen, Evelyne; Yan, Rachel; and Delage, Hélène, "The impact of grammar on mentalizing: A training study including children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Developmental Language Disorder" (2019). Psychology: Faculty Publications, Smith College, Northampton, MA.
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