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Language and the development of self-understanding in children with communication difficulties

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date2008
JournalEducational and Child Psychology
Number of pages14
Original languageEnglish


The socio-emotional adjustment of children with communication difficulties is an aspect of development that has been receiving some attention in the last decade. Social interactional and socio-emotional adjustment difficulties are defining features of disorders on the autistic spectrum, but research has shown that
children identified as having specific speech and language difficulties also often have significant difficulties in this area. The present paper considers the role of communication difficulties in the development of the understanding of the self and others. The results are reported of research employing the Damon and Hart (1988) self-understanding interview. The self concepts of separate groups of pupils with specific language impairment (SLI) (n = 10, Mean age = 12.26 years) and pupils with Asperger’s syndrome (n = 9, Mean age = 13.72 years) are compared with typically developing groups with whom they were matched for
chronological age and for level of language development. The results showed that compared to children of the same chronological age the children with SLI and children with Asperger’s syndrome had less developed concepts of their social, interpersonal selves. The children with SLI also showed immaturity in relation to
language-age-matched children. There was a significant tendency for children with Asperger’s syndrome in particular to be more inward-looking in their reflections than were individuals of their own age and also those of the same language level. Similarities between the two groups with communication difficulties are shown and the results are discussed in terms of the mental health difficulties and intervention needs of individuals with these difficulties.