The Double Interview Task: Assessing the Social Communication of Children with Asperger Syndrome

Communication Assessment

Pragmatic assessment needs to take place within the framework of a whole discourse and not within the framework of individual units, which have been isolated from context (Neville, 1990). According to Klin and Volkmar (2003), a communication assessment for an individual with autism spectrum disorder should examine nonverbal forms of communication such as gaze and gestures, nonliteral language, suprasegmental aspects of speech (patterns of inflection, stress, volume), pragmatics such as turn taking, and content, coherence, and contingency of conversation. Often the child's disability is much more apparent during periods in which the child is not given any instruction and has no imposed expectation as to how to behave (Klin & Volkmar, 2003). Based on the fact that the social communication of individuals with Asperger Syndrome is highlighted during natural conversation, an assessment that accurately illustrates these deficits should be based on a conversational model.

In order to understand what makes an individual a successful or unsuccessful communicator, obtaining normative data based on predictive statistics is not enough. This data gives little information about the strengths and areas of need of the individual as a communicator. Instead, the focus should be on actual behaviors and the functional aspects of communication in order to determine whether difficulties exist and why those difficulties exist (Tetnowski & Franklin, 2003). A standardized tool that evaluates social-pragmatic skills while engaged in conversation is not available in the field of speech-language pathology.

Though there are no standardized measures of social communication, Damico (1991) developed the Clinical Discourse Analysis, which takes a functional rather than a structural perspective of language. The Clinical Discourse Analysis is based on Grice's (1975) cooperative principle, which states that conversation is accomplished by cooperation between the people communicating together. In this assessment, a conversational sample is taken, transcribed and then analyzed for errors in the categories of quantity, quality, relation and manner of communication. The tool has been used to identify individuals who have difficulties with conversational language skills.