Idiom Intervention for Children with Autism

Open Access
Whyte, Elisabeth M
Graduate Program:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
March 23, 2009
Committee Members:
  • Keith E Nelson, Thesis Advisor
  • Rick Owen Gilmore, Thesis Advisor
  • Reginald Adams Jr., Thesis Advisor
  • Susan Mohammed, Thesis Advisor
  • Autism
  • idiom
  • language development
  • group intervention
Typically developing children learn idioms and other figurative language during childhood and adolescence. However, most children with autism fall behind in their idiom comprehension, and never fully reach adult levels. The current study measured the effectiveness of an idiom intervention for 11 children, age 7 to 12, with autism spectrum disorders. The results of the intervention showed large gains for the idioms included in teaching activities during the two week intervention program. In addition, relationships were found between children’s performance on idiom comprehension tasks and their current theory of mind abilities and vocabulary levels. Autistic children’s comprehension of idioms is likely related to their ability to understand the intentions and feelings of others, as measured by theory of mind tasks. Future interventions to facilitate figurative language skills in children with autism or Asperger’s Syndrome could build on this initial intervention study by increasing the scope of the intervention.