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Title page for ETD etd-03282019-153024

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Castle, George R
Author's Email Address georgecastle@me.com
URN etd-03282019-153024
Title Reading between the lines: Do textual characteristics and social skills influence reading comprehension performance in individuals with autism spectrum disorder?
Degree PhD
Department Hearing and Speech Sciences
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Stephen Camarata Committee Chair
Dan Ashmead Committee Member
Jim Bodfish Committee Member
Laurie Cutting Committee Member
  • autism
  • reading comprehension
  • social skills
Date of Defense 2018-11-30
Availability unrestricted
Individuals with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often demonstrate proficient reading decoding skills, yet they may still experience difficulty performing reading comprehension tasks. This profile may lead educators to overlook those struggling with reading comprehension problems and have a broader adverse impact on overall academic performance. Recent research suggests that social behavior and social cognition may contribute to reading comprehension performance in individuals with ASD and may lead to differential performance based on text type and level of text cohesion. This study of 17 high functioning individuals with ASD and 20 typically developing individuals investigated the relationship between pragmatic language, oral language comprehension and reading comprehension skills. Particular emphasis was placed on the effect of text type (i.e. narrative versus expository) and text cohesion (i.e. referential versus causal) on reading comprehension performance.

Analysis revealed a strong positive relationship between pragmatic language and reading comprehension performance on both text types in individuals with ASD. Moreover, the ASD group performed significantly more poorly than the TD group on both text types but the ASD group did not show a difference in performance between text types. Additionally, the level of narrativity, degree of referential cohesion and degree of causal cohesion in each paragraph significantly predicted reading comprehension performance (Adjusted R2 = 95.5).

Results of this study suggest that although individuals with ASD perform more poorly on reading comprehension tasks than do typically developing children, as one would expect, both groups have similar profiles, with respect to the effects of text type and cohesion. Interestingly, although social communication abilities were strongly associated with reading comprehension performance in both groups, that relationship did not manifest itself in differential performance on narrative versus expository texts for individuals with ASD.

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