Report  |   October 2008
Verbal Working Memory and Story Retelling in School-Age Children With Autism
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Cheryl Smith Gabig
    Lehman College/City University of New York, Bronx
  • Contact author: Cheryl Smith Gabig, Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences, Lehman College/CUNY, 250 Bedford Park Boulevard West, Bronx, NY 10468. E-mail: Cheryl.gabig@lehman.cuny.edu.
Article Information
Special Populations / Autism Spectrum / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions
Report   |   October 2008
Verbal Working Memory and Story Retelling in School-Age Children With Autism
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, October 2008, Vol. 39, 498-511. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2008/07-0023)
History: Received March 26, 2007 , Revised August 4, 2007 , Accepted February 5, 2008
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, October 2008, Vol. 39, 498-511. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2008/07-0023)
History: Received March 26, 2007; Revised August 4, 2007; Accepted February 5, 2008
Web of Science® Times Cited: 9

Purpose: This study examined verbal working memory and language ability in 15 school-age children with autism using 3 verbal working memory tasks and 1 story recall task.

Method: Three measures of verbal working memory—nonword repetition, memory for digits span, and sentence imitation—were given to children with autism and age-matched controls. Verbal working memory measures were chosen to reflect increasing levels of cognitive–linguistic complexity. Story retelling was measured using TheRenfrew Bus Story (J. Cowley & C. Glasgow, 1994) and was scored for the percentage of propositions recalled and the average utterance length.

Results: A profile of verbal working memory deficits was seen in children with autism, with poorer performance on more complex verbal memory tasks. Performance on the 3 verbal memory tasks was independent of articulation ability. For the group with autism, receptive vocabulary was associated with sentence imitation and story recall but not with nonword repetition or digits span. Sentence imitation was related to story recall, but the relationship disappeared when the effect of vocabulary was removed.

Conclusions: Vocabulary and language processing demands affect the performance of children with autism on tasks of verbal memory and story retelling. Results are viewed within a connectionist framework of verbal working memory.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
This research was supported in part by Professional Staff Congress, The City University of New York Faculty Development Award 60159-34-35 to the author. The author wishes to thank the AHA/Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism Association, Bethpage, NY; the Cody Center for Autism, Stony Brook University; The School for Language and Communication Development, Glenn Cove, NY; and the Eden School, Staten Island, NY for their assistance in recruitment. Thank you to the families who opened their homes to the author and participated in this research.
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