Aspeprger’s Syndrome: a literature review
The article entitled Conversational behaviour of children with Asperger Syndrome and conduct disorder carried out by Catherine Adams et al. (2002) discusses how communication is one of the greatest issues facing children with Asperger Syndrome as well as those around them such as their family and teachers. The study’s rationale discusses how Asperger Syndrome has evolved with time due to our understanding of it and how originally, it was seen as being a personality deviation in late childhood and adolescence “marked by social gaucheness, clumsiness and eccentric interests” (Adams et al, 2002, p679). When compared with our understanding of the condition today, it is clear that significant progress has been made. Particularly in the area of communication: in 1992, the World Health Organisation defined Asperger Syndrome as being “a variant of autism distinguished by the ‘lack of any clinically significant general delay in language or cognitive development” (Adams et el, 2002, p679). The study aims to assess how significant this under-development of linguistic capability is and elaborates on this by stating that “one of the main social difficulties faced by individuals with AS is their difficulty with reciprocal conversation and the pragmatics of communication” indicating that it is not language that they struggle with but rather the meaning behind the words and how best to convey that.
The study’s purpose is clearly stated as being designed to make a systematic analysis of the difficulties which adolescents with Asperger Syndrome face on a daily basis (Adams et el, 2002, p679), which has a number of useful, real world applications such as for teachers in the classroom. The study used recent advances in discourse analysis and applied them to conversational samples from children with Asperger Syndrome and was matched with samples from a group of children with severe conduct disorder too (Adams et el, 2002, p679). The effect of using recent advances will mean that the study’s results will be current and applicable to recent educational settings too. It is interesting to use a control group of children with severe conduct disorder as opposed to children who are developing in the ‘normal’ way as there will be no exact comparisons drawn between the minority and the majority of children. However, the choice of using children with severe conduct disorder is an interesting one as these children also suffer from a significant difficulty in communication but for entirely different reasons. Each group provided the study with two samples of conversational dialect varying in different levels of emotional output (Adams et el, 2002, p679), presumably to allow for a variation in their results and because, more notably, children with Asperger Syndrome are known for struggling with communication their emotional outlook. The study used only boys aged between 11 and 19 who had a non-verbal IQ greater than or equal to 70 (Adams et al, 2002, p681). This immediately causes there to be a question mark over how effective a sample this is: why did they not use girls and the use of adolescents with that level of non-verbal IQ indicates that they may be brighter than the average child anyway, meaning that they may be capable of manipulating results. This sample is not at all varied which means that its real-world applications are dampened somewhat. The conversational samples were recorded on video and then transcribed for the purposes of analysis (Adams et al, 2002, p681). This is also quite an inexact method since the person transcribing the video may mishear the child, for example, causing there to be a potential problem with the authenticity of results.
The study’s results show that the Asperger group showed a significantly more pragmatically problematic responses than the control group. Both of the groups demonstrates a reasonably equal rate of response but the analysis of the quality of those responses showed that the individuals with Asperger Syndrome produce a higher rate of problematic responses. The study argues that this finding fits in neatly with other studies and so its context appears to match the expected results. However, it may have been interesting to carry out the same study but with all girls this time and compare the results since it is well-known that adolescent girls are traditionally more conversationally responsive than adolescent boys.
In terms of real-world applications, these results are massively useful for classroom teachers as it shows that children with Asperger Syndrome may require alternative methods for communicating their ideas and thoughts. The study addressed a verbal response and found that the children struggled with this meaning that their teachers must make some allowances for this on a daily basis. It also implies that children with Asperger Syndrome could greatly benefit from a smaller ‘child to teacher’ ratio style class which would permit for the teacher to spend a greater time with each child in order to fully grasp their communicative meaning. It also demonstrates that these children may also benefit from utilising some alternative form of communication such as drawing or signalling their meaning in some way.
Adams, C. et al. (2002). Conversational behaviour of children with Asperger syndrome and conduct disorder. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 43(5), 679-690.