Chapter 8. The use of narrative in studying communication in Autism Spectrum Disorders
The construction and communication of narratives is a fundamental and distinctive aspect of our human experience. Investigation of narrative language has been used extensively in studying the impairments in language, communication and cognitive functioning associated with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). However the field has been characterized by a high degree of inconsistency in research findings and difficulty in drawing clear conclusions about narrative abilities in this diverse clinical population. For a range of measures, studies can be identified which have shown impairments in the narrative abilities of children with ASDs, while other studies show no significant differences when compared with neurotypical populations. In this article we critically review studies of language and communication in ASDs which include narrative data. We consider the range of methodologies used and some of the theoretical assumptions which have shaped these. We also review the findings from the studies and the potential impact that choice of methodological techniques may have had on these results. We address the kind of narrative data studied, the nature of the task used to elicit it, and the modality of presentation of stimulus materials. We provide a definitive picture of the state of play in narrative research on ASDs and propose directions for future research.