Using CA to Find Out How a Child with High Functioning Autism Responds to Questions in Different Settings

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Maria McCormack


Anecdotal reports on the discourse of children with High Functioning Autism (HFA) often claim that failure to respond to questions is a key characteristic. However, Kremer-Sadlik (2004) found that HFA children respond 85% of the time to questions, and that 75% of the time their responses are also communicatively “adequate,” meaning that they address the pragmatic intent behind the question as well as its surface form. Using Conversation Analysis (CA) as one of her methodologies, Kremer-Sadlik explained this surprisingly high number by showing that in her data, which consisted of audio/videotaped family interactions, family members extensively scaffolded the children’s responses, teaching and coaching them in appropriate response patterns with every interaction. Thus, in Kremer-Sadlik’s study, CA complements quantitative methods in describing language and interaction patterns of impaired individuals that run counter to popular belief. These results prompted me to ask whether response behavior of HFA children would be similar in non-family settings.

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