The Psychology of Pragmatics Lab focuses on pragmatic development, social communication, and language and communication in individuals with autism spectrum disorders.
Learn more about the different lines of research that we do at the POP Lab.
The course of language development is extremely variable among children with autism spectrum disorders. We have been studying both nurture (parental language input) and nature (cognitive skills the child brings to language learning) factors that can help us understand this variability.
Parent-child interactions are the initial forum for language exposure and learning. We know from work on typical development that higher amounts and varied forms of language input provided by parents during these interactions enhances their child’s language development. Do similar relationships hold for autism?
We study how different basic cognitive skills contribute to children’s learning of language. We examine explicit learning situations, and how children are able to use social vs. non-social cues to learn and retain new words. We also investigate implicit learning situations, and whether children are able to pick up on patterns that are not taught directly. Finally, we have explored the contribution of executive functions to language learning in bilingual children.
Though we often take it for granted, face-to-face conversations are intricate exchanges where multiple modes of information (e.g., speech, eye contact, tone of voice) need to be coordinated in real-time. We study what information is used to enable this coordination, and whether there are aspects that differ in people with ASD.
People with ASD are often reported to speak in a noticeably different way. We have conducted acoustic analyses of speech to understand whether there are common ways speech differs and the details of how it does (e.g., in intonation, volume, speed). We also examine how listeners perceive the speech, which is has an important impact on social interactions.
Many young adults with ASD struggle with the transition from school to the community and support services are sorely lacking. Our recent research attempts to address this need by developing intervention programs and studying their effectiveness.
Watch our video on sharing perspectives of adults with ASD on their transition from school to the community, and sign our action letter or access to transition support services!
Growing evidence suggests that music may provide a unique therapy to improve social and communication function in those diagnosed with ASD. Anecdotally, the role of music for children with autism is profound. However, there is currently no clear neuroscientific evidence for the efficacy of such music-based therapies in ASD. The results of this new study could have critical implications for understanding the neurobiological mechanisms of music processing in children with autism as well as establishing music therapy as an evidence-based practice.