The purpose of this study is to investigate the social and affective aspects of communication in school-age children with HFA and school-age children with WS using a micro-analytic approach. Social communication is important for success at home, school, work and in the community. Lacking the ability to effectively process and convey information can lead to deficits in social communication. Individuals with high functioning autism (HFA) and individuals with Williams syndrome (WS) often have significant impairments in social communication that impact their relationships with others. Currently, little is known about how school-age children use and integrate verbal and non-verbal behaviors in the context of a social interaction.
A micro-analytic coding scheme was devised to reveal which channels children use to convey information. Language, eye gaze behaviors and facial expressions of the child were coded during this dyadic social interaction. These behaviors were coded throughout the entire interview, as well as when the child was the speaker and when the child was the listener.
Language results continue to pose problems for the HFA and WS groups compared to their typically developing (TD) peers. For non-verbal communicative behaviors, a qualitative difference in the use of eye gaze was found between the HFA and WS groups. For facial expression, the WS and TD groups produced more facial expressions than the HFA group.
No differences were observed in the HFA group when playing different roles in a conversation, suggesting they are not as sensitive to the social rules of a conversation as their peers. Insights from this study add knowledge toward understanding social-communicative development in school-age children.
In this study, two non-verbal behaviors will be assessed in multiple contexts: the entire biographical interview, when the child is the speaker and when the child is the listener. These social and expressive measures give an indication of how expressive school-age children are and provide information on their attention, affective state and communication skills when conversing with an adult. Insights from this study will add knowledge toward understanding social-communicative development in school-age children.