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The use of semantic organization by children with autism Privett, Janine


The purpose of this study was to investigate whether a semantic network exists for children with autism. Ten children participated in the study: five with autism or Aspergers syndrome and five controls. The subjects ranged in age from 9;8 to 14;11 and had normal non-verbal IQs as measured by the Test of Non-Verbal Intelligence-2. Children in the two groups were matched exactly for auditory-verbal memory span as measured by the recall of 10 unrelated words after a 30 second filled delay and they were required to have a receptive vocabulary level of at least 7 years as measured by the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised. All subjects participated in an experimental memory task with two conditions: 1) a free-recall task with lists of eight related words to be remembered after a 30 second filled delay, and 2) a cued-recall task with similar lists and delays. There were two trials in each condition. A semantic network would be evident if the subjects grouped categorically related words upon recalling the list of words, or if subjects' recall was aided by either clustering or being given category names as cues. Findings revealed similar results for both subjects with autism and control subjects with or without category cues. Results further indicate that individuals in both groups clearly used clustering strategies, and that both groups benefited from clustering and from category cues. These findings demonstrate the existence of a semantic network for children with autism.

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