Assessing pragmatic language in children through a brief assessment of idiom comprehension: a pilot study

Caldwell, Kathryn E.
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The purpose of this study was to assess pragmatic language in children within a clinical population (i.e., children with ASD and ADHD) and nonclinical population (i.e., typically developing children) by using a newly formed Test of Idioms. The total number of participants who participated in the study was 36 with 18 participants in each group (i.e., clinical and nonclinical). Each participant in the study was given a series of 25 idiom phrases and was asked to identify what each phrase meant. If the participant responded incorrectly, they were given a visual cue and asked to guess again. This study aimed to not only demonstrate that the Test of Idioms was a useful tool for identifying pragmatic language difficulties among a clinical group, but may also help differentiate between children with ASD and ADHD. The study examined the relationship between the Test of Idioms and another measure of pragmatic competence (i.e., TOPS 3) through a Spearman’s correlation. Results from the analysis demonstrated that two of the five composite scores on the Test of Idioms (i.e., Food, Home and School) showed significant correlations with the TOPS 3. Next, a Cronbach’s alpha was conducted to measure the inter-item reliability. Three of the five composites (i.e., Food, Animal, Home and School) were just below the threshold of .70, which is considered acceptable reliability. However, the overall score showed strong inter-item reliability. A Mann Whitney – U analysis was employed to examine differences in performance between the clinical and nonclinical group. The results revealed a significant difference between groups on two of the composites (i.e., Animal, Home and School). Furthermore, a Mann Whitney – U was also utilized to examine differences in the obtainment of 1-point and 2-point responses between participants with ASD and ADHD. No significant differences between groups were identified. Overall, the Test of Idioms showed potential in becoming a reliable and valid measure for assessing pragmatic language in children. In addition, it proved to be a quick and user-friendly assessment that most children reported enjoying.

Health and environmental sciences, Education, ADHD, Assessment, Autism, Idioms, Pragmatic language