Chapter 9. Using conversational structure as an interactional resource

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One of the diagnostic criteria for children with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) is pragmatic impairment. Yet, minimal interactional research has been carried out on what exactly ‘pragmatic impairment’ might mean. What do children with AS do (or not do) when interacting? What do they find interactionally ‘difficult’? What do the conversational partners do to manage social and pragmatic difficulties as they emerge, moment by moment, in interaction? Using a conversation analytic framework, this paper explores some of the ways in which two pragmatically impaired children with AS, aged 8 years, interact with four different conversational partners. Using a competence model, it examines the conversational partners’ use of adjacency pairs as a scaffolding device enabling the children with AS to make contributions to the talk-in-interaction in a safe, predictable environment. It also examines the different strategies used by the children with AS in environments in which the talk is less well-scaffolded, such as when initiating new topics or repair sequences. The analysis highlights the need for further research into how interaction is collaboratively managed by children with AS and their interactional partners.


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