Kalandadze, Norbury, Nærland & Næss (2016): Figurative language comprehension in individuals with autism spectrum disorder: A meta-analytic review
I: Autism, Online first
Tamar Kalandaze, Courtenay Norbury, Terje Nærland og Kari-Anne Bottegaard Næss
We present a meta-analysis of studies that compare figurative language comprehension in individuals with autism spectrum disorder and in typically developing controls who were matched based on chronological age or/and language ability. A total of 41 studies and 45 independent effect sizes were included based on predetermined inclusion criteria. Group matching strategy, age, types of figurative language, and cross-linguistic differences were examined as predictors that might explain heterogeneity in effect sizes. Overall, individuals with autism spectrum disorder showed poorer comprehension of figurative language than their typically developing peers (Hedges’ g = –0.57). A meta-regression analysis showed that group matching strategy and types of figurative language were significantly related to differences in effect sizes, whereas chronological age and cross-linguistic differences were not. Differences between the autism spectrum disorder and typically developing groups were small and nonsignificant when the groups were matched based on the language ability. Metaphors were more difficult to comprehend for individuals with autism spectrum disorder compared with typically developing controls than were irony and sarcasm. Our findings highlight the critical role of core language skills in figurative language comprehension. Interventions and educational programmes designed to improve social communication skills in individuals with autism spectrum disorder may beneficially target core language skills in addition to social skills.