Referential Communication in Children With ADHD: Challenges in the Role of a Listener Purpose Successful communication requires that listeners accurately interpret the meaning of speakers' statements. The present work examined whether children with and without attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) differ in their ability to interpret referential statements (i.e., phrases that denote objects or events) from speakers. Method Children (6 to 9 years ... Research Article
Research Article  |   April 01, 2013
Referential Communication in Children With ADHD: Challenges in the Role of a Listener
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Elizabeth S. Nilsen
    University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
  • Leilani Mangal
    University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
  • Kristi MacDonald
    University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
  • Correspondence to Elizabeth Nilsen: enilsen@uwaterloo.ca
  • Editor: Janna Oetting
    Editor: Janna Oetting×
  • Associate Editor: Sean Redmond
    Associate Editor: Sean Redmond×
Article Information
Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   April 01, 2013
Referential Communication in Children With ADHD: Challenges in the Role of a Listener
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, April 2013, Vol. 56, 590-603. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2012/12-0013)
History: Received January 9, 2012 , Accepted July 21, 2012
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, April 2013, Vol. 56, 590-603. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2012/12-0013)
History: Received January 9, 2012; Accepted July 21, 2012
Web of Science® Times Cited: 9

Purpose Successful communication requires that listeners accurately interpret the meaning of speakers' statements. The present work examined whether children with and without attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) differ in their ability to interpret referential statements (i.e., phrases that denote objects or events) from speakers.

Method Children (6 to 9 years old), diagnosed with ADHD (n = 27) and typically developing (n = 26), took part in an interactive task in which they were asked by an adult speaker to retrieve objects from a display case. Children interpreted the referential statements in contexts that either did or did not require perspective-taking. Children's eye movements and object choices were recorded. Parents completed questionnaires assessing their child's frequency of ADHD symptoms and pragmatic communicative abilities.

Results Behavioral and eye movement measures revealed that children with ADHD made more interpretive errors and were less likely to consider target referents across the 2 communicative conditions. Furthermore, ADHD symptoms related to children's performance on the communicative task and to parental report of the child's pragmatic skills.

Conclusion Children with ADHD are less accurate in their interpretations of referential statements. Such difficulties would lead to greater occurrences of miscommunication.

Acknowledgments
This research was supported by funding from an Ontario Mental Health Foundation New Investigator Grant awarded to the first author. We thank the children and parents who participated in the study, as well as the community organizations that assisted us in recruiting participants. We also thank A. Fecica, V. Li, T. Le, A. Bowers, and S. Vindum Whittaker for their assistance with this research. Portions of this data were included in the third author's honor's thesis and were presented at the 2009 Cognitive Development Society Meeting, San Antonio, TX.
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