Learning and consolidation of new spoken words in autism spectrum disorder

Lisa-Marie Henderson, Anna Powell, M. Gareth Gaskell, Courtenay Norbury

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by rich heterogeneity in vocabulary knowledge and word knowledge that is not well accounted for by current cognitive theories. This study examines whether individual differences in vocabulary knowledge in ASD might be partly explained by a difficulty with consolidating newly learned spoken words and/or integrating them with existing knowledge. Nineteen boys with ASD and 19 typically developing (TD) boys matched on age and vocabulary knowledge showed similar improvements in recognition and recall of novel words (e.g. 'biscal') 24 hours after training, suggesting an intact ability to consolidate explicit knowledge of new spoken word forms. TD children showed competition effects for existing neighbors (e.g. 'biscuit') after 24 hours, suggesting that the new words had been integrated with existing knowledge over time. In contrast, children with ASD showed immediate competition effects that were not significant after 24 hours, suggesting a qualitative difference in the time course of lexical integration. These results are considered from the perspective of the dual-memory systems framework.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)858-871
Number of pages14
JournalDevelopmental Science
Issue number6
Early online date17 Mar 2014
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014

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© 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an author produced version of a paper published in Developmental Science. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher's self-archiving policy.

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