LONDON, Ontario, April 28 (UPI) -- Canadian researchers suggest "not getting" some things need not keep those with autism from using language well.
It had been assumed many individuals with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, have problems with what linguists call "pragmatics" because they have difficulties in social situations -- especially in responding to metaphor, irony, sarcasm and to what is presumed rather than stated.
However, researchers Robert Stainton of The University of Western Ontario, Jessica de Villiers of the University of British Columbia and Peter Szatmari of McMaster University looked at transcripts of conversations with 42 speakers with ASD and concluded pragmatics were both used and understood in cases of literal talk.
Subsequently, de Villiers and Szatmari developed a rating scale of pragmatic abilities that can be used in the clinical assessment of people with ASD.
"In the short term, their new tool will help identify where an individual fits on that spectrum." Stainton said in a statement.
He said he believes in the longer term, it may contribute "to our theoretical understanding of the boundary between knowledge of the meanings of words, and non-linguistic abilities -- specifically pragmatics."
Stainton says the study, published in Midwest Studies in Philosophy, is "especially gratifying" because without "a philosophical perspective, this discovery might not have been made."