Social cognition and reading comprehension in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders or typical development

Nancy McIntyre, Tasha Oswald, Emily Solari, Matthew Zajic, Lindsay Lerro, Claire Hughes, R.T. Devine, Peter Mundy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Many individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) exhibit social cognitive impairments in the development of theory of mind (ToM), or the ability to attribute mental states to oneself and others. ToM has been shown to relate to reading comprehension for children and adolescents with typical development (TD) and with ASD. This study examined the relation between reading comprehension, word recognition, oral language, and ToM for higher-functioning children and adolescents with ASD (HFASD) as compared to those with TD.

Method: 70 children with HFASD and 40 children with TD, aged 9–17 years, participated in the study. In order to describe the HFASD as compared to the TD sample, a series of ANOVAs and ANCOVAs were conducted. Multiple regression analyses were conducted with reading comprehension as the outcome variable. Separate regression models (TD & HFASD) were run with IQ, word recognition, oral language, and two ToM measures (Happé’s Strange Stories and the Silent Films Task) as predictors.

Results: The TD group performed better than the HFASD group on all standardized and experimental measures. Regression analyses revealed that after controlling for IQ, word recognition, and oral language, both ToM measures predicted unique variance in reading comprehension in the HFASD, but not the TD, sample. Furthermore, the TD and HFASD groups displayed different patterns of significant predictors of reading comprehension.

Conclusions: This study suggests that in addition to oral language and higher-order linguistic comprehension, social cognition is an important factor to consider when designing reading interventions for students with ASD.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-20
Number of pages12
JournalResearch in Autism Spectrum Disorders
Early online date29 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


  • ASD
  • social cognition
  • theory of mind
  • oral language
  • reading comprehension


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