Comprehension of Demonstrative Pronouns in 4- to 6-year-old Children with High-Functioning Autism
Our aim in this paper was to explore the developmental trajectory of comprehension of locative demonstrative pronouns “Zhege”( this) and “nage” (that) in Mandarin Chinese in children with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and typically development (TD) children between ages of 4 and 6. Using semi-structured interactive tasks, we designed three cuing settings, i.e., clueless, eye-gaze and pointing, each including the two locative conditions of on-the-same side and on-opposite-sides. It was found that (1)in clueless settings the 4- to 6-year-old HFA group performed less well than the TD group , and with gaze assisting the HFA group remained less capable in using them than their TD peers; (2) in the case that the speaker is located on the same side with the participant, the HFA group had greater difficulty understanding the demonstratives in clueless and gaze settings as compared with the TD group;and (3) the HFA group of 4 years of age and the TD group of 4 years of age had the pronoun-type effect, but the two groups reached congruence in understanding “zhege” and “nage” when aided with pointing and gaze. These findings indicate that children with HFA are impaired in processing such information as gaze and location, which involves joint attention and the Theory of Mind (ToM). Nevertheless, children with HFA have relatively preserved ability in using highly conspicuous pointing for the non-verbal clue virtually compensates the impairment.