Portrait of Dr Kirsten Abbot-Smith

Dr Kirsten Abbot-Smith

Senior Lecturer in Psychology
Programme Director for MSc Developmental Psychology
Co-Director of the Kent Child Development Unit'

About

Key publications

  • Malkin, L., Abbot-Smith, K., Williams, D., & Ayling, J. (2018) When do children with Autism Spectrum Disorder take common ground into account during communication? Autism Research doi: 10.1002/aur.2007 https://rdcu.be/6Ejx 
  • Abbot-Smith, K., Morawska-Patera, P., Łuniewska, M., Spruce, M, & Haman, E. (2018) Using parental questionnaires to investigate the heritage language proficiency of bilingual children. Child Language Teaching and Therapy doi: 10.1177/0265659018780958 
  • Abbot-Smith, K., Chang, F., Rowland, C., Ferguson, H., & Pine, J. (2017). Do two and three year old children use an incremental first-noun-as-agent bias to process active transitive and passive sentences?: A permutation analysis. PloSOneDOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0186129
  • Dittmar, M., Abbot-Smith, K., Lieven, E., & Tomasello, M. (2014). Familiar verbs are not always easier than novel verbs: How German pre-school children comprehend active and passive sentences. Cognitive Science,38: 128-151 DOI: 10.1111/cogs.12066

Research interests

Dr Kirsten Abbot-Smith's main current research interest focuses on pragmatic language development and how children learn to access their listener’s mental perspective during communication. Kirsten is particularly interested in how this process intersects with theory-of-mind representation, executive functions and structural language processing, both in typically-developing pre-schoolers and in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. 

To investigate structural language processing in two and three year olds, Kirsten has used both eye-tracking and forced-choice pointing measures. She also has research interests concerning the development of accurate language screening measures for use by early years’ practitioners, particularly in the case of bilingual children.

Teaching

Kirsten teaches on:

Supervision

Main supervisor

  • Louise Malkin: The development of referential communication in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Maria Zajaczkowska: Ironic versus non-ironic relevance inferencing: a comparison of typical children and children​ with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Second supervisor

Professional

  • Board Member, Autism and Developmental Language Impairments
  • Associate Editor, First Language (from January 2017)
  • ESRC Peer Review College

Grants and Awards

Jul 2017 - Jul 2018University of Kent Social Sciences Faculty Research Fund 
What enables children to have good conversation skills?
CI = Prof David Williams
£4,787.60
Dec 2014 - Dec 2015University of Kent Social Sciences Faculty Research Fund
The role of social shared experience in how typically-developing children and children with ASD interpret linguistic requests
CI = Prof David Williams
£4,986
2013-2016K Abbot-Smith, C Floccia (PI), A Cattani (Plymouth), J Goslin (Plymouth), 
L White (Plymouth), K Plunkett (Oxford), C Rowland (Liverpool), A Krott (Birmingham), D Mills (Bangor) 
ESRC (via University of Plymouth)
Lexicon development in bilingual toddlers
£3,416
2011University of Kent Social Sciences Faculty Research Fund
Relative action salience: when three-year-olds can and can’t learn words for actions
£1,000
2011K Abbot-Smith
British Academy
Grant to attend the 12th International Congress for the Study of Child Language
£500
2010-12K Abbot-Smith, C Rowland, J Pine 
ESRC
The role of the agent in sentence comprehension by preschool children
£98,554
2010K Abbot-Smith
Nufflield Foundation 
Do children find it easier to learn verb meanings for ‘prototypically’ causative events?
£7,461
2007-09K Abbot-Smith
British Academy Small Grant 
Interpretation of basic word order in Italian pre-school children
£7,310


Publications

Showing 50 of 68 total publications in the Kent Academic Repository. View all publications.

Article

  • Malkin, L., Abbot-Smith, K., Williams, D., & Ayling, J. (2018). When do children with Autism Spectrum Disorder take common ground into account during communication?. Autism Research, 11, 1366-1375. doi:10.1002/aur.2007
    One feature of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a deficit in verbal reference production; i.e., providing an appropriate amount of verbal information for the listener to refer to things, people, and events. However, very few studies have manipulated whether individuals with ASD can take a speaker’s perspective in order to interpret verbal reference. A critical limitation of all interpretation studies is that comprehension of another’s verbal reference required the participant to represent only the other’s visual perspective. Yet, many everyday interpretations of verbal reference require knowledge of social perspective (i.e., a consideration of which experiences one has shared with which interlocutor).
    We investigated whether 22 5;0- to 7;11-year-old children with ASD and 22 well-matched typically developing (TD) children used social perspective to comprehend (Study 1) and produce (Study 2) verbal reference. Social perspective-taking was manipulated by having children collaboratively complete activities with one of two interlocutors such that for a given activity, one interlocutor was Knowledgeable and one was Naïve. Study 1 found no between-group differences for the interpretation of ambiguous references based on social perspective. In Study 2, when producing referring terms, the ASD group made modifications based on listener needs, but this effect was significantly stronger in the TD group. Overall, the findings suggest that high-functioning children with ASD know with which interlocutor they have previously shared a given experience and can take this information into account to steer verbal reference. Nonetheless, they show clear performance limitations in this regard relative to well-matched controls.
  • Abbot-Smith, K., Morawska-Patera, P., ?uniewska, M., Spruce, M., & Haman, E. (2018). Using parental questionnaires to investigate the heritage language proficiency of bilingual children. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 34, 155-170. doi:10.1177/0265659018780958
    We asked whether parental questionnaires on the heritage language proficiency of bilingual children might elucidate how proficient bilingual children are in their heritage language. We tested 20 UK-based Polish-English bilingual children between 4;5 and 5;9 years on Polish and English versions of the Cross-Linguistic Lexical Tasks (CLTs). These comprise receptive and expressive picture tasks. Our bilingual group performed significantly worse on the Polish CLTs than on the English CLTs overall. They also performed significantly worse on the English CLTs than did an age- and gender-matched group of monolingual English-speaking children. Therefore our bilingual sample represent the type of bilinguals for whom education professionals have difficulty determining whether weak English is due to diminished English input versus an underlying Speech, Language or Communication Need.

    Parents of the bilinguals completed a Polish adaptation of the Children’s Communication Checklist 2. They also completed the Parents of Bilingual Children Questionnaire (PaBiQ), which includes Risk Factor measures (‘No Risk Index’ and children’s ‘Current Language Skills’). The PaBiQ also includes measures of the Amount and Length of Exposure to the majority language (English) prior to age four as well as the proportion of English in the current input.

    For the bilingual sample the CCC2 General Communication Composite (GCC), which measures structural language, significantly predicted Polish CLT production, uniquely accounting for 25% of the variance. The parent-rated PaBiQ ‘current Polish skills’ section predicted the Polish CLT comprehension. While the PaBiQ measure of Amount and Length of English Exposure was related to both Polish comprehension and production, it did not retain significance in a regression analysis. Therefore, parental questionnaires of the heritage language could provide a useful first step for education professionals when deciding whether to refer bilingual children for speech and language assessment. Large scale studies are needed to further develop these parental questionnaires.
  • Matthews, D., Biney, H., & Abbot-Smith, K. (2018). Individual differences in children’s pragmatic ability: a review of associations with formal language, social cognition, and executive functions. Language Learning and Development, 14, 186-223. doi:10.1080/15475441.2018.1455584
    Children vary in their ability to use language in social contexts and this has important consequences for wellbeing. We review studies that test whether individual differences in pragmatic skill are associated with formal language ability, mentalising and executive functions in both typical and atypical development. The strongest and most consistent associations found were between pragmatic and formal language. Additional associations with mentalising were observed, particularly with discourse contingency and irony understanding. Fewer studies considered executive function and evidence is mixed. To make progress, high-quality studies of specific pragmatic skills are needed to test mechanistic models of development. We propose 6 goals for future research: 1) developing an empirically-based taxonomy of pragmatic skills; 2) establishing which skills matter most for everyday functioning; 3) testing specific hypotheses about information processing; 4) augmenting measures of individual differences; 5) considering a broader set of psychological associates; 6) employing statistical tools that model the nested structure of pragmatics and cognition.
  • Malkin, L., Abbot-Smith, K., & Williams, D. (2018). Is verbal reference impaired in autism spectrum disorder? A systematic review. Autism and Developmental Language Impairments, 3, 1-24. doi:10.1177/2396941518763166
    Background and aims: Pragmatic language is a key difficulty in autism spectrum disorder. One such pragmatic skill is verbal reference, which allows the current entity of shared interest between speakers to be identified and thus enables fluid conversation. The aim of this review was to determine the extent to which studies have found that verbal reference is impaired in autism spectrum disorder. We organise the review in terms of the methodology used and the modality
    (production versus comprehension) in which proficiency with verbal reference was assessed. Evidence for the potential cognitive underpinnings of these skills is also reviewed.

    Main contribution and methods: To our knowledge, this is the first systematic review of verbal reference in autism spectrum disorder. PsychINFO and Web of Science were systematically screened using the combination of search terms outlined in this paper. Twenty-four studies met our inclusion criteria. Twenty-two of these examined production, whereby the methodology ranged from elicited conversation through to elicited narrative, the ‘director’ task and other referential communication paradigms. Three studies examined reference interpretation. (One study investigated both production and appropriacy judgement). Four studies examined the relationship between appropriate usage of verbal reference and formal language (lexico-syntactic ability). Two studies investigated whether reference production related to Theory of Mind or Executive Functioning.

    Conclusion and implications: Across a range of elicited production tasks, the predominant finding was that children and adults with autism spectrum disorder demonstrate a deficit in the production of appropriate verbal reference in comparison not only to typically developing groups, but also to groups with Developmental Language Disorder or Down syndrome. In contrast, the studies of reference interpretation which compared performance to typical control groups all
    found no between-group differences in this regard. To understand this cross-modality discrepancy, we need studies withthe same sample of individuals, whereby the task requirements for comprehension and production are as closely matched as possible. The field also requires the development of experimental manipulations which allow us to pinpoint precisely if and how each comprehension and/or production task requires mentalising and/or various components of executive functioning. Only through such detailed and controlled experimental work would it be possible to determine the precise location of impairments in verbal reference in autism spectrum disorder. A better understanding of this would contribute to the development of interventions.
  • Floccia, C., Sambrook, T., Delle Luche, C., Kwok, R., Goslin, J., White, L., Cattani, A., Sullivan, E., Abbot-Smith, K., Krott, A., Mills, D., Rowland, C., Gervain, J., & Plunkett, K. (2018). Vocabulary of 2-Year-Olds Learning English and an Additional Language: Norms and Effects of Linguistic Distance. I: Introduction. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 83, 7-29. doi:10.1111/mono.12348
    The majority of the world's children grow up learning two or more languages. The study of early bilingualism is central to current psycholinguistics, offering insights into issues such as transfer and interference in development. From an applied perspective, it poses a universal challenge to language assessment practices throughout childhood, as typically developing bilingual children usually underperform relative to monolingual norms when assessed in one language only. We measured vocabulary with Communicative Development Inventories for 372 24?month?old toddlers learning British English and one Additional Language out of a diverse set of 13 (Bengali, Cantonese, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hindi?Urdu, Italian, Mandarin, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, and Welsh). We furthered theoretical understanding of bilingual development by showing, for the first time, that linguistic distance between the child's two languages predicts vocabulary outcome, with phonological overlap related to expressive vocabulary, and word order typology and morphological complexity related to receptive vocabulary, in the Additional Language. Our study also has crucial clinical implications: we have developed the first bilingual norms for expressive and receptive vocabulary for 24?month?olds learning British English and an Additional Language. These norms were derived from factors identified as uniquely predicting CDI vocabulary measures: the relative amount of English versus the Additional Language in child?directed input and parental overheard speech, and infant gender. The resulting UKBTAT tool was able to accurately predict the English vocabulary of an additional group of 58 bilinguals learning an Additional Language outside our target range. This offers a pragmatic method for the assessment of children in the majority language when no tool exists in the Additional Language. Our findings also suggest that the effect of linguistic distance might extend beyond bilinguals’ acquisition of early vocabulary to encompass broader cognitive processes, and could constitute a key factor in the study of the debated bilingual advantage.
  • Floccia, C., Sambrook, T., Delle Luche, C., Kwok, R., Goslin, J., White, L., Cattani, A., Sullivan, E., Abbot-Smith, K., Krott, A., Mills, D., Rowland, C., Gervain, J., & Plunkett, K. (2018). Vocabulary of 2-year-olds learning English and an additional language: norms and effects of linguistic distance. II: Methods. Monographs for the Society for Research in Child Development, 83, 30-42. doi:10.1111/mono.12349
  • Floccia, C., Sambrook, T., Delle Luche, C., Kwok, R., Goslin, J., White, L., Cattani, A., Sullivan, E., Abbot-Smith, K., Krott, A., Mills, D., Rowland, C., Gervain, J., & Plunkett, K. (2018). Vocabulary of 2-year-olds learning English and an additional language: norms and effects of linguistic distance. III: Analyses and Results for Study 1: Estimating the Effect of Linguistic Distance on Vocabulary Development. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 83, 43-60. doi:10.1111/mono.12350
  • Floccia, C., Sambrook, T., Delle Luche, C., Kwok, R., Goslin, J., White, L., Cattani, A., Sullivan, E., Abbot-Smith, K., Krott, A., Mills, D., Rowland, C., Gervain, J., & Plunkett, K. (2018). Vocabulary of 2-year-olds learning English and an additional language: norms and effects of linguistic distance; IV: Results for Studies 2 and 3: The UKBTAT Model and its Application to Nontarget Additional Language Learners. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 83, 61-67. doi:10.1111/mono.12351
  • Floccia, C., Sambrook, T., Delle Luche, C., Kwok, R., Goslin, J., White, L., Cattani, A., Sullivan, E., Abbot-Smith, K., Krott, A., Mills, D., Rowland, C., Gervain, J., & Plunkett, K. (2018). Vocabulary of 2-year-olds learning English and an additional language: norms and effects of linguistic distance. V:GENERAL DISCUSSION. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 83, 68-80. doi:10.1111/mono.12352
  • Abbot-Smith, K., Chang, F., Rowland, C., Ferguson, H., & Pine, J. (2017). Do two and three year old children use an incremental first-NP-as-agent bias to process active transitive and passive sentences? : A permutation analysis. PloS One. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0186129
    We used eye-tracking to investigate if and when children show an incremental bias to assume that the first noun phrase in a sentence is the agent (first-NP-as-agent bias) while processing the meaning of English active and passive transitive sentences. We also investi-gated whether children can override this bias to successfully distinguish active from passive sentences, after processing the remainder of the sentence frame. For this second question we used eye-tracking (Study 1) and forced-choice pointing (Study 2). For both studies, we used a paradigm in which participants simultaneously saw two novel actions with reversed agent-patient relations while listening to active and passive sentences. We compared English-speaking 25-month-olds and 41-month-olds in between-subjects sentence struc-ture conditions (Active Transitive Condition vs. Passive Condition). A permutation analysis found that both age groups showed a bias to incrementally map the first noun in a sentence onto an agent role. Regarding the second question, 25-month-olds showed some evidence of distinguishing the two structures in the eye-tracking study. However, the 25-month-olds did not distinguish active from passive sentences in the forced choice pointing task. In contrast, the 41-month-old children did reanalyse their initial first-NP-as-agent bias to the extent that they clearly distinguished between active and passive sentences both in the eye-tracking data and in the pointing task. The results are discussed in relation to the development of syntactic (re)parsing.
  • Abbot-Smith, K., Imai, M., Durrant, S., & Nurmsoo, E. (2017). The role of timing and prototypical causality on how preschoolers fast-map novel verb meanings. First Language, 37, 186-204. doi:10.1177/0142723716679800
    In controlled contexts, young children find it more difficult to learn novel words for actions than words for objects: Imai et al. (2008) found that English-speaking three-year-olds mistakenly choose a novel object as a referent for a novel verb about 42% of the time despite hearing the verb in a transitive sentence. The current two studies investigated whether English three- and five-year-old children would find resultative actions easier (since they are prototypically causative) than the non-resultative, durative event types used in Imai et al.’s studies. The reverse was true. Furthermore, if the novel verbs were taught on completion of the action, this did not improve performance, which contrasts with previous findings (e.g. Tomasello & Kruger, 1992). Our resultative actions were punctual, change-of-location events which may be less visually salient than the non-resulative, durative actions. Visual salience may play a greater role than does degree of action causality in the relative ease of verb learning even at three years.
  • Landsiedel, J., Williams, D., & Abbot-Smith, K. (2017). A meta-analysis and critical review of prospective memory in autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. doi:10.1007/s10803-016-2987-y
    Prospective memory (PM) is the ability to remember to carry out a planned intention at an appropriate moment in the future. Research on PM in ASD has produced mixed results. We aimed to establish the extent to which two types of PM (event-based/time-based) are impaired in ASD. In part 1, a meta-analysis of all existing studies indicates a large impairment of time-based, but only a small impairment of event-based, PM in ASD. In Part 2, a critical review concludes that time-based PM appears diminished in ASD, in line with the meta-analysis, but that caution should be taken when interpreting event-based PM findings, given potential methodological limitations of several studies. Clinical implications and directions for future research are discussed.
  • Seager, E., & Abbot-Smith, K. (2017). Can early years professionals determine which preschoolers have comprehension delays? A comparison of two screening tools. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 33, 67-79. doi:10.1177/0265659016650977
    Language comprehension delays in pre-schoolers are predictive of difficulties in a range of developmental domains. In England, early years setting staff are required to assess the language comprehension of two-year-olds in their care. Many use a format based on the Early Years Foundation Stage My Unique Child (EYFS:UCCS ) in which the child’s language comprehension is assigned to an age band based on written guidance. Seventy 2½-3-year-olds were assessed on the comprehension component of the Preschool Language Scale (PLS) by psychology graduates. Early years practitioners assessed language comprehension in the same children using the EYFS:UCCS and the WellComm which involves some direct testing. The EYFS:UCCS had poor sensitivity and specificity and the understanding section did not correlate with the PLS. The WellComm had good-acceptable levels of sensitivity and specificity and significantly correlated with the PLS. Early years setting staff can accurately assess the language comprehension of two-year-olds if provided with a tool which gives specific instructions on administration, but current frequently used procedures (EYFS:UCCS) are not fit for this purpose.
  • Abbot-Smith, K., Nurmsoo, E., Croll, R., Ferguson, H., & Forrester, M. (2015). How 2;6-year-olds tailor verbal expressions to interlocutor informational needs. Journal of Child Language, 43, 1277-1291. doi:10.1017/S0305000915000616
    Although preschoolers are pervasively under-informative in their actual usage of verbal reference, a number of studies have shown that they nonetheless demonstrate sensitivity to listener informational needs, at least when environmental cues to this are obvious. We investigated two issues. The first concerned the types of visual cues to interlocutor informational needs which 2;6-year-olds can process whilst producing complex referring expressions. The second was whether performance in experimental tasks related to naturalistic conversational proficiency. We found 2;6-year-olds used fewer complex expressions when the objects were dissimilar compared to highly similar objects, indicating that they tailor their verbal expressions to the informational needs of another person, even when the cue to the informational need is relatively opaque. We also found a correlation between conversational skills as rated by the parents and the degree to which 2;6-year-olds could learn from feedback to produce complex referring expressions.
  • Abbot-Smith, K., & Serratrice, L. (2015). Word order, referential expression, and case cues to the acquisition of transitive sentences in Italian. Journal of Child Language, 42, 1-31. doi:dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0305000913000421
    In Study 1 we analyzed Italian child-directed-speech (CDS) and selected the three most frequent active transitive sentence frames used with overt subjects. In Study 2 we experimentally investigated how Italian-speaking children aged 2;6, 3;6, and 4;6 comprehended these orders with novel verbs when the cues of animacy, gender, and subject–verb agreement were neutralized. For each trial, children chose between two videos (e.g., horse acting on cat versus cat acting on horse), both involving the same action. The children aged 2;6 comprehended S + object-pronoun + V (soprov) significantly better than S + V + object-noun (svonoun). We explain this in terms of cue collaboration between a low cost cue (case) and the firstargument = agent cue which we found to be reliable 76% of the time. The most difficult word order for all age groups was the object-pronoun + V + S (oprovs). We ascribe this difficulty to cue conflict between the two most frequent transitive frames found in CDS, namely V + object-noun and object-pronoun + V.
  • Cattani, A., Abbot-Smith, K., Farag, R., Krott, A., Arreckx, F., Dennis, I., & Floccia, C. (2014). How much exposure to English is necessary for a bilingual toddler to perform like a monolingual peer in language tests?. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 49, 649-671. doi:doi:10.1111/1460-6984.12082
    Background
    Bilingual children are under-referred due to an ostensible expectation that they lag behind their monolingual peers in their English acquisition. The recommendations of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) state that bilingual children should be assessed in both the languages known by the children. However, despite these recommendations, a majority of speech and language professionals report that they assess bilingual children only in English as bilingual children come from a wide array of language backgrounds and standardized language measures are not available for the majority of these. Moreover, even when such measures do exist, they are not tailored for bilingual children.

    Aims
    It was asked whether a cut-off exists in the proportion of exposure to English at which one should expect a bilingual toddler to perform as well as a monolingual on a test standardized for monolingual English-speaking children.

    Methods & Procedures
    Thirty-five bilingual 2;6-year-olds exposed to British English plus an additional language and 36 British monolingual toddlers were assessed on the auditory component of the Preschool Language Scale, British Picture Vocabulary Scale and an object-naming measure. All parents completed the Oxford Communicative Development Inventory (Oxford CDI) and an exposure questionnaire that assessed the proportion of English in the language input. Where the CDI existed in the bilingual's additional language, these data were also collected.

    Outcomes & Results
    Hierarchical regression analyses found the proportion of exposure to English to be the main predictor of the performance of bilingual toddlers. Bilingual toddlers who received 60% exposure to English or more performed like their monolingual peers on all measures. K-means cluster analyses and Levene variance tests confirmed the estimated English exposure cut-off at 60% for all language measures. Finally, for one additional language for which we had multiple participants, additional language CDI production scores were significantly inversely related to the amount of exposure to English.

    Conclusions & Implications
    Typically developing 2;6-year-olds who are bilingual in English and an additional language and who hear English 60% of the time or more, perform equivalently to their typically developing monolingual peers.
  • Dittmar, M., Abbot-Smith, K., Lieven, E., & Tomasello, M. (2014). Familiar Verbs Are Not Always Easier Than Novel Verbs: How German Pre-School Children Comprehend Active and Passive Sentences. Cognitive Science, 38, 128-151. doi:10.1111/cogs.12066
    Many studies show a developmental advantage for transitive sentences with familiar verbs over those with novel verbs. It might be that once familiar verbs become entrenched in particular constructions, they would be more difficult to understand (than would novel verbs) in non-prototypical constructions. We provide support for this hypothesis investigating German children using a forced-choice pointing paradigm with reversed agent-patient roles. We tested active transitive verbs in study 1. The 2-year olds were better with familiar than novel verbs, while the 2½-year olds pointed correctly for both. In study 2, we tested passives: 2½-year olds were significantly below chance for familiar verbs and at chance for novel verbs, supporting the hypothesis that the entrenchment of the familiar verbs in the active transitive voice was interfering with interpreting them in the passive voice construction. The 3½-year olds were also at chance for novel verbs but above chance with familiar verbs. We interpret this as reflecting a lessening of the verb-in-construction entrenchment as the child develops knowledge that particular verbs can occur in a range of constructions. The 4½-year olds were above chance for both familiar and novel verbs. We discuss our findings in terms of the relative entrenchment of lexical and syntactic information and to interference between them.

Book section

  • Abbot-Smith, K., & Kidd, E. (2012). Exemplar Learning and Schematization in Language Development. In N. M. Seel (Ed.), Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning. Heidelberg: Springer. Retrieved from http://www.springer.com/education+%26+language/learning+%26+instruction/book/978-1-4419-1427-9

Conference or workshop item

  • Pocock, G., Abbot-Smith, K., Horst, J., & Grassmann, S. (2019). Where does the wug go? How pre-schoolers use sentence context to infer the taxonomic categories of novel words. In Child Language Symposium. Sheffield, UK.
  • Zajaczkowska, M., Abbot-Smith, K., & Kim, C. (2019). When children use shared knowledge to interpret irony. In Child Language Symposium. Sheffield, UK. Retrieved from https://sites.google.com/a/sheffield.ac.uk/clshef2019/home
    For an ironic meaning to be successfully conveyed, a speaker and listener need to know what information they share. Thus, if a speaker says (1) where the listener can see that the footballer missed the goal, then they share the knowledge needed for the listener to infer that (1) is ironic. However, if the listener is in another room, then this knowledge is not shared and thus the listener may interpret this literally.

    (1) That was a great shot!”

    This kind of understanding of what others know is often referred to as Theory of Mind. Irony interpretation is also likely to incur an Executive Function (EF) load. Previous studies investigating the role of either Theory of Mind or EF on irony interpretation in children have used correlational designs. The only exception is a study by Nilsen, Glenwright and Huyder (2011), who presented children with vignettes similar to the one above in which a speaker and listener either shared the knowledge necessary for the listener to understand the ironic intent (SHARED KNOWLEDGE CONDITION) or the listener did not have visual access to the requisite knowledge (NON-SHARED KNOWLEDGE CONDITION). They found that 7-year-olds olds did not take the shared knowledge into account when determining how the listener would interpret the utterances.
    However, this study – like almost all others in the field of irony interpretation – required children to give meta-pragmatic judgements; that is, they had to say whether the listener believed that the shot was good or bad. Meta-pragmatic ability develops slowly and indeed may not relate to actual pragmatic language ability (e.g. Collins, Lockton & Adams, 2014). Therefore, in the current study, we developed a more ecologically valid measure; children were instead asked to decide which out of two responses the listener might give as a reply (see (2) versus (3).
    (2) LITERAL INTERPREATION: Was it? So our team won?
    (3) IRONIC INTERPRETATION: I know! It’s a pity that he missed.
    In addition to the within-subjects manipulation of Shared vs. Non-Shared Knowledge, we also assigned our 7-year-old participants (N = 78) to one of three between-subjects Flexibility conditions, to determine whether the interpretation of irony is more difficult if participants are required to switch between Shared versus Non-Shared Knowledge vignettes (= high EF load) than when participants are administered each condition in blocks.
    A binomial mixed effect model found that 7-year-olds do take shared knowledge into account when selecting the listener’s response (p < .001). There was no main effect or interaction with Flexibility condition. We are thus the first to experimentally demonstrate the role of Theory of Mind in how children as young as seven years interpret ironic utterances.
  • Zajaczkowska, M., & Abbot-Smith, K. (2019). Cognitive flexibility helps children understand ironic intent. In Child Language Symposium. Sheffield, UK.
  • Abbot-Smith, K. (2019). Shared intentionality and pragmatic language in autistic and typically developing children. In Child Language Symposium Pre-conference workshop. Sheffield, UK.
  • Malkin, L., & Abbot-Smith, K. (2019). Flexing the description: the role of cognitive flexibility in referential choice in ASD. In Understanding of reference and referential pacts in typical and atypical development: Eastern Arc Workshop. University of Kent, UK.
  • Abbot-Smith, K. (2019). Learning to perspective-take in conversation. In . Groningen, Holland.
  • Zajaczkowska, M., Abbot-Smith, K., & Williams, D. (2018). Cognitive underpinnings of irony understanding in children. In Social Communication Across the Lifespan. Canterbury, Kent. Retrieved from https://www.kent.ac.uk/psychology/downloads/CogSoCoAGEConference.pdf
    We examined the relationship between irony interpretation and Theory of Mind
    measures (Strange Stories, Happé, 1994) and the Theory of Mind Inventory (ToMI,
    Hutchins et al., 2012), as well as working memory, set shifting and inhibitory
    control, whilst controlling for non-verbal IQ. We also examined different types of
    irony interpretation. All previous studies have used simple forms of irony, where
    the hearer can see from the real world context that the literal meaning cannot be
    true (see (1)). We included a complex irony condition, where the non-literal
    interpretation cannot be inferred from the visual context (see (2)).
    (1) Tom and Sally wanted to go for a picnic. It has just started to rain. Sally: It's a
    perfect day for a picnic.
    (2) Tom: I have been invited to a party by the most beautiful girl in my class.
    Sally: Yeah, and I have been invited to the Queen's party.
    We presented children (N=51; aged 6;01 - 9;01) with 5 videos, in both simple and
    complex irony conditions. After each short dialogue as in (1) and (2), participants
    answered an open-ended question, then a forced-choice (out of three) question
    about the speakers meaning. Children selected above chance for simple irony (M
    = 76% correct) but significantly below chance for complex (M = 25% correct) irony.
    Regression analyses showed that when controlling for age, nonverbal IQ and
    formal language, ToM measures related to simple irony interpretation. There was
    no relationship found between the EF and ToM measures and complex irony
    interpretation.
  • Matthews, D., Abbot-Smith, K., & Biney, H. (2018). Individual differences in children’s pragmatic ability: a review of associations with formal language, social cognition and executive functions. In Social Communication Across the Lifespan. Canterbury, Kent. Retrieved from https://www.kent.ac.uk/psychology/downloads/CogSoCoAGEConference.pdf
    Children vary in their ability to use language in social contexts and this has
    important consequences for wellbeing. We review over 50 studies that tested
    whether individual differences in pragmatic skill are associated with formal
    language ability, mentalising and executive functions in both typical and atypical
    development. The strongest and most consistent associations found were
    between pragmatic and formal language. Additional associations with mentalising
    were observed, particularly with discourse contingency and irony understanding.
    Fewer studies considered executive function and evidence is mixed. To make
    progress, high-quality studies of specific pragmatic skills are needed to test
    mechanistic models of development. We propose 6 goals for future research: 1)
    developing an empirically-based taxonomy of pragmatic skills; 2) establishing
    which skills matter most for everyday functioning; 3) testing specific hypotheses
    about information processing; 4) augmenting measures of individual differences;
    5) considering a broader set of psychological associates; 6) employing statistical
    tools that model the nested structure of pragmatics and cognition.
  • Abbot-Smith, K., Williams, D., & Matthews, D. (2018). Listening in your shoes: social perspective-taking and verbal reference interpretation by children with autism. In Social Communication Across the Lifespan. Canterbury, Kent. Retrieved from https://www.kent.ac.uk/psychology/downloads/CogSoCoAGEConference.pdf
    Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often do not tailor language for
    specific listeners, i.e. they fail to use social perspective. Only one previous study
    examined whether individuals with ASD use social perspective to interpret
    referring terms (e.g. 'the stripy ball'). Malkin et al. (2017) found that 5- to 7-yearolds
    with ASD did not differ from well-matched typically-developing (TD) children
    in correctly interpreting a referring term in relation to the activity they had shared
    with the specific speaker. In the current study, we manipulated a different aspect
    of social common ground. We told each child (C) that one experimenter (E2) had
    bought toys which the Requesting Experimenter (RE) had not yet seen. For each
    trial, E2 passed one of these (e.g. pink ball) over to RE, who discussed this with C.
    Then RE left and E2 showed C another object of the same type (e.g. yellow ball).
    When RE returned, she and C could see both objects. RE said 'Oh wow, I like that
    ball. Can you put that ball in my box?'. We tested 24 eight- to eleven-year-olds
    with ASD. They were significantly less likely than 24 well-matched TD controls to
    select the object that was new for RE (p <.05) and significantly more likely to ask
    clarification questions such as, 'which ball?' (p < .01). The groups did not differ for
    either of these DVs in visual perspective-taking controls. Individuals with ASD have
    difficulty understanding that people tend to comment on things which are new for
    them.
  • Zajączkowska, M., Abbot-Smith, K., & Williams, D. (2018). Cognitive underpinnings of irony understanding in children. In 10th Dubrovnik conference on cognitive science: communication, pragmatics and Theory of Mind.. Dubrovnik, Croatia.
  • Abbot-Smith, K., Williams, D., & Matthews, D. (2018). Listening in Your Shoes: Can Children with Autism Take the Perspective of Others When Interpreting Language?. In International Society for Autism Research Annual Conference. Rotterdam, Netherlands: INSAR. Retrieved from https://insar.confex.com/insar/2018/webprogram/Paper27246.html
    Background: Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) frequently fail to interpret the intent of a speaker’s utterance, apparently because they have difficulty determining the crucial aspects of common ground, which they share with the speaker. Only two studies (both with adults with ASD) have previously investigated this experimentally (Begeer et al., 2010; Sanstieban et al., 2015). Both manipulated level one visual common ground (whether the speaker can see a particular object). Both found that the participants with ASD were unimpaired relative to typical controls. However, visual perspective-taking may not align in development with social perspective-taking, which is understanding the interlocutor-specific experiences shared with the conversation partner.
    Objectives: To determine whether social versus visual perspective-taking have differential effects on the ability of children with ASD to interpret requests.

    Methods: We compared 24 eight- to eleven-year-olds with ASD with 23 typically-developing eight- to eleven-year-olds. Groups were matched on non-verbal IQ, receptive language, chronological age and gender. Children interpreted requests (e.g. ‘Can I have that ball?’) in contexts which would be ambiguous (i.e. because the child can see two balls) if perspective-taking was not utilized. There were three within-subjects conditions: Social perspective-taking, Level 1 Visual Perspective-taking (VPL1) and Level 2 Visual Perspective-taking. There were three trials per condition. For each the requester wore dark sunglasses and did not point. In the VPL1 condition one of the two objects was hidden from the viewpoint of the requester (E1). The correct choice was the object that the requester could see. In the Social Condition, the child was told that E2 had bought toys that E1 had not yet seen. E2 passed one of these (e.g. a pink ball) over to E1, who played with / discussed this with the child. Then E1 left the room and E2 showed the child another object of the same type (e.g. a yellow ball) and played with /discussed this with the child. When E1 returned to the room, both the child and E1 could see two balls as E1 excitedly verbalized the request. The correct choice was the object that was new for E1 (here: yellow ball).

    Results: Overall the group with ASD performed significantly worse than the typically-developing control (p = .032, ?p2 = .073). Their performance was not found to relate to affect recognition. There was also a main effect for condition (p = .033, ?p2 = .097). Children with ASD found the Social Condition significantly harder than the VPL1 Condition (p <.01). Nonetheless, Social and VPL1 conditions were strongly inter-correlated for children with ASD (r = .73, p < .001), even when non-verbal IQ, receptive language and age were partialled out (r = .73, p < .001).

    Conclusions: Children with ASD find it more difficult to use social than to use VPL1 to interpret language. VPL1 may be a more basic form of social perspective-taking (Harris, 1992) since the two are related. A large proportion of intellectually high-functioning children with ASD may have difficulty interpreting language if instructions or discourse require social perspective-taking
  • Anagnostopoulou, N., Abbot-Smith, K., Matthews, D., & Schulze, C. (2017). Relevance Inferencing in 3-year-olds: Real World Knowledge Matters. In 14th International Congress for the Study of Child Language. Lyons, France. Retrieved from https://iascl2017.sciencesconf.org/
  • Malkin, L., Abbot-Smith, K., Williams, D., & Ayling, J. (2017). Children with autism spectrum disorder use common ground to comprehend ambiguous requests. In 14th International Congress for the Study of Child Language. Lyon, France.
  • Malkin, L., Abbot-Smith, K., Williams, D., & Ayling, J. (2017). When do children with Autism Spectrum Disorder take common ground into account during communication?. In 14th International Congress for the Study of Child Language. Lyon, France. Retrieved from http://iascl2017.org/
  • Abbot-Smith, K., Williams, D., & Matthews, M. (2017). How social vs. visual perspective-taking determine the interpretation of linguistic reference by children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. In 14th International Congress for the Study of Child Language. Lyon, France. Retrieved from http://iascl2017.org/
  • Abbot-Smith, K., Williams, D., Matthews, D., Pettifor, L., & Vince, N. (2016). How social vs. visual perspective-taking determine the interpretation of linguistic reference by 8-11-year-olds with ASD and age-matched peers. In Neurodevelopmental Seminar UCL. London, UK. Retrieved from http://www.neurodevelopmentaldisorders-seminarseries.co.uk/
  • Malkin, L., Abbot-Smith, K., Williams, D., & Ayling, J. (2016). When do children with Autism Spectrum Disorder take common ground into account during communication?. In Neurodevelopmental Seminar UCL. London, UK.
  • Delle Luche, C., Kwok, R., Durrant, S., Chow, J., Horvath, K., Cattani, A., Abbot-Smith, K., Krott, A., Mills, D., Plunkett, K., Rowland, C., & Floccia, C. (2016). ’It’s a big world’: understanding the factors guiding early vocabulary development in bilinguals. In International Conference on Infant Studies.
    How many words is a bilingual 2-year-old supposed to know or say in each of her languages? Speech and language therapists or researchers lack the tools to answer this question, because several factors have an impact on bilingual language skills: gender (Kern, 2007), amount of exposure (De Houwer, 2007; Hoff et al, 2012), mode of acquisition (Place & Hoff, 2011), socio-economic status (SES, Gathercole et al., 2010) and the distance between L1 and L2 (Havy et al., 2015). Unfortunately, these factors are usually studied separately, making it difficult to evaluate their weight on a unique measure of vocabulary.
    The present study measures the contribution of the following factors to the vocabulary scores of bilingual toddlers: i) gender; ii) sibling ranking; iii) relative amount of exposure to each language; iv) mode of exposure; v) SES; vi) linguistic distance; vii) language spoken between parents.
    Close to the child’s second birthday, parents of 278 UK-based bilinguals completed successively: a 100-word version of the Oxford-CDI (Hamilton et al., 2000), the CDI in the child’s Additional Language, a family questionnaire (taken from the UK-CDI study, Alcock et al., in prep.), and the Language Exposure Questionnaire (Cattani et al., 2014).
    Thirty-six British-English-AL pairs were considered, with languages contrasted on a second-language-learning scale (Chiswick and Miller, 2005): for example, Dutch and French are close to British-English, while Polish or Cantonese are more distant. Data from the corpus were included in two mixed-effect models, one with the English scores in comprehension as the dependent variable, and the other with production scores. The seven factors listed above were included as predictors.
    The amount of English exposure was the strongest predictor of comprehension scores (?2(13) = 9.35, p < .005, ? = 0.02, t = 3.08, p <.005), followed by the language that parents speak between themselves (?2(13) = 14.94, p < .001, ? = 1.37, t = 3.76, p <.0005), linguistic distance (?2(13) = 6.92, p < .01, ? = -0.74, t = -2.66, p <.01) and age (?2(13) = 4.86, p < .05, ? = 0.55, t = 2.17, p <.05). In production, gender (?2(13) = 13.57, p < .0005, ? = -0.91, t = -03.72, p <.0005), amount of exposure to English (?2(13) = 13.57, p < .0005, ? = -0.91, t = -03.72, p <.0005), the language that parents speak between themselves (?2(13) = 11.85, p < .005, ? = 1.09, t = 3.41, p <.001), and the mother’s occupation (?2(13) = 4.51, p < .05, ? = 0.63, t = 2.13, p <.05) were the significant predictors.
    The more English parents use to address one another, the more English words the child says and understands. This surprising result could be simply explained by the fact that parents who speak English together are also more likely to speak English to their child.
    The main results of this study is that linguistic distance is a powerful predictor of toddlers’ vocabulary in English, with children learning two close languages growing their vocabulary faster than those learning distant languages.
  • Cattani, A., Kwok, R., Delle Luche, C., Horvath, C., Chow, J., Abbot-Smith, K., Goslin, J., Krott, A., Mills, D., Plunkett, K., Rowland, C., White, L., & Floccia, C. (2015). Not only amount of exposure but also linguistic distance to English affects the word learning of bilingual toddlers. In Workshop in bilingual assessment of child lexical knowledge in Central Europe. Bratislava at Comenius University.
    Over half the speech therapists in the UK have at least one bilingual child on their caseload. A majority of speech and language professionals report that they assess bilingual children only in English as bilingual children come from a wide array of language backgrounds and standardised language measures are not available for the majority of these. However, even when such measures
    do exist, they are not tailored for bilingual children. Guidance based on the amount of exposure to English is the starting point on how to interpret the vocabulary performance of a bilingual toddler with the use of a standardised monolingual test. Current caveats and further directions are discussed through the presentation of a large UK scale project in which identifies that also the linguistic distance affects the word learning of bilingual toddlers.
  • Morawska-Patera, P., Abbot-Smith, K., Spruce, M., ?uniewska, M., & Haman, E. (2015). The utility of using translations of the Children’s Communication Checklist to detect language or communication delay in bilingual reception-class children. In Workshop in bilingual assessment of child lexical knowledge in Central Europe. Bratislava at Comenius University. Retrieved from http://psychologia.pl/clts/workshop.html
    Around 5% of monolingual children have a speech, language or communication disorder (e.g. Boyle et al., 1996). The prevalence rate is expected to be the same in the bilingual community. The difficulty which teachers, GPs and health visitors in the UK face, however, is that there is currently no effective means of screening bilingual children accurately, especially if these children are dominant in their home language (e.g. Stow & Dodd, 2003). We asked, firstly, whether bilingual reception-class children might show delayed vocabulary development when assessed in English-only. Secondly, we investigated the utility of a translation of the ‘Children’s Communication Checklist’ (Bishop, 2003. This questionnaire was selected because most of the items do not depend on characteristics of particular languages.
    We assessed 22 Polish-English speaking and 21 monolingual English-speaking 4- and 5-year-olds on their receptive and expressive noun and verb vocabularies using the Cross-Linguistic Lexical Tasks. The bilingual children were assessed on both Polish and English variants of these tasks and the monolingual children were assessed on English only. We found that if we considered the English-only assessment, the bilingual group scored significantly below their monolingual English-speaking counterparts on every vocabulary test used. However, our key finding is that for the bilingual sample there was a strong, positive and highly significant relationship between the parent-rated Polish translation of the Children’s Communication Checklist global language composite score and total Polish production (conflated over nouns and verbs). Therefore, translation of the Children’s Communication Checklist may be a useful step in screening bilingual children.
  • Abbot-Smith, K., Chang, F., Rowland, C., Ferguson, H., & Pine, J. (2015). First NP-as-agent bias does not prevent active from passive discrimination in 25-month-olds. In 40th Boston University Conference on Language Development. Boston, USA. Retrieved from http://www.bu.edu/bucld/conference-info/schedule/
    In this study, we used pointing and eye-tracking to measure how 25- and 42-month-olds interpret the English passive (the boy is being refted by the girl), which has traditionally been considered ‘late-acquired’. We tested a) whether 25- and 42-month-olds can, in fact, interpret the passive in tasks with low task demands, and b) whether any poor performance could be attributed to an incremental processing heuristic known as the ‘first-NP-as-agent’ bias; a bias which (erroneously, in the case of the passive), causes children to map the NP preceding the verb onto the agent of a causative (Bever, 1970; MacWhinney & Bates, 1982).
    Study 1 used forced-choice pointing, in which children heard active or passive sentences (between-subjects) and were asked to point to one of two video clips of novel causative events, both involving a boy and a girl. In one clip the boy was the agent and in the other the boy was the patient. Participants were 50 25-month-olds and 50 42-month-olds. The 42-month-olds (but not the 25-month-olds) correctly interpreted the full passive with novel verbs.
    In Study 2, 58 25-month-olds, 58 42-month-olds and 44 adults were eye-tracked with a Tobii X120 whilst watching the same set of video clips (see Study 1). This paradigm was adapted from Gertner, Fisher and Eisengart’s (2006) preferential-looking study. Participants in each age group either heard active transitive or passive sentences with novel verbs (between-subjects). During each test trial, participants first saw the clip pair without audio.
    The data were analysed using a permutation analysis. This allowed us to avoid any prior assumptions about appropriate analysis regions, an important constraint since a range of task-related issues (cf. Arunachalam et al., 2012; Fernald, Perfors & Marchman, 2006) can affect visual-scanning and lexical-processing speed across development (e.g. Manning, Dacking, Tibber & Pellicano, 2014). Permutation analysis identifies clusters in the data that exhibit a significant difference between two conditions (von Holzen & Mani, 2012) and controls for multiple comparisons. These clusters are specific to each age group and hence capture the age-specific processes that are sensitive to the manipulation.
    The results showed that both child age groups showed clusters which significantly distinguished the passive from the active (Figure 1). To investigate the ‘first-NP-as-agent’ bias, we also compared gaze preference after the onset of the audio with a baseline region (2500 msec prior to the onset of the audio, Figure 2). Adults did not show a ‘first-NP-as-agent’ bias (presumably because they are more likely to expect patient subjects). However, both 25- and 42-month-olds showed a bias to map the first NP (‘the boy/girl is….’) onto an agent before they had fully processed the second NP. Thus, 25- and 42-month-olds’ interpretation of the passive is influenced by an early, incremental ‘first-NP-as-agent’ bias. This eye-tracking study is the first to find that 25-month-olds can distinguish actives and passives and children have multiple competing biases at different points in sentence processing.
  • Abbot-Smith, K., Chang, F., Rowland, C., Ferguson, H., & Pine, J. (2015). Comprehension of passive sentences with novel verbs by 25- and 42-month-olds. In Child Language Symposium. University of Warwick. Retrieved from https://www.regonline.co.uk/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1628415
    The acquisition of passive sentence structure has a long history of debate. Early studies using act out methods suggested that children do not understand reversible passives until around 4 years and that preschoolers pass through a stage in which they interpret the first noun phrase (NP) as the agent. However, studies using syntactic priming suggest that three-year-olds have verb-general representations of passive structure. We used forced choice pointing (Study 1) and preferential looking techniques (Study 2) to investigate at which age children show verb-general comprehension of passive structure. Since it is possible that when processing passive sentences children have to overcome a first-NP-as-agent bias, we combined preferential looking with eye-tracking measures in order to understand how children’s comprehension of passive sentences unfolds over time. We adapted a paradigm used by Gertner et al. (2006) whereby participants simultaneously saw two video clips of novel causative events, both involving a boy and a girl, whereby in one clip the boy was the agent and in the other he was the patient. Both Studies 1 and 2 compared 25-month-olds and 41-month-olds in between-subjects sentence structure conditions (Active Transitive vs. Passive). Study 1 found that 3-year-olds pointed above chance for both structures. For Study 2, we examined 800 msec windows that were time-locked to both first and second NP taking into account mean lexical processing speed for each age group. In the first NP region, both age groups showed a bias to map the first NP onto the agent, both for active and passive sentences. Both age groups showed evidence of differentiating the active from the passive sentence structure after the onset of the second NP. Thus, even as early as 25 months, children differentiate different types of two-NP sentences and show signs of an emerging ability to map these incrementally onto semantic roles.
  • Abbot-Smith, K., Nurmsoo, E., Forrester, M., & Ferguson, H. (2015). Preschooler awareness of listener informational need in relation to linguistic reference. In Child Language Symposium. University of Warwick. Retrieved from https://www.regonline.co.uk/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1628415
    Making appropriately informative requests necessitates understanding what others know and what they are paying attention to. Matthews, Butcher, Lieven and Tomasello (2012) carried out two training studies in which 21?2-year-olds requested one of an array of pictures. If the child was ambiguous (e.g. 'pig one!' when the array contained two pigs), E2 provided feedback (e.g. 'Which pig?'). They found that 21?2-year-olds cannot take elements of picture detail into account when determining listener informational need. However, their pictures frequently required the children to infer actions and to produce reduced relative clauses (e.g. 'Can I have the pig dancing'). We modified Matthews et al.'s (2012) procedure to reduce cognitive load, primarily by reducing array size and modifying the stimuli so they contained no actions so 21?2-year-olds could produce complex requests by using early- acquired prepositions (e.g. 'rabbit on boat'). In each training trial, children requested one of two 'similar' pictures which contained identical animals (e.g. TARGET: pig on bike, DISTRACTOR: pig with cake) and received feedback if their first request was ambiguous. There were two post-test conditions: 'similar' vs. 'dissimilar' distractors. Our 21?2-year-olds were significantly less likely to produce complex referring expressions for 'dissimilar' pictures, showing sensitivity to when disambiguating information was needed. There was a relationship between individual differences in parent-rated conversation skills and training outcome. We discuss our data in terms of the roles of cognitive load reduction alongside how discourse around repair can focus attention on the need to incorporate listener informational need when planning requests.
  • Seager, E., & Abbot-Smith, K. (2015). Can nursery key-workers determine which 30-month-olds have comprehension delays? A comparison of three screening tools. In Child Language Symposium. University of Warwick.
    UK nurseries are required to carry out a progress check with two-year-olds in a number of areas of development, including language. Nurseries may use any format (Blades et al., 2014). Many use a format based on the guidance produced by DfE’s Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) ‘my unique child’ whereby each of the child’s developmental domains is assigned to an age band (e.g. 22-36 months). Since significant delays in the receptive language of two-year-olds are more predictive of later language and other developmental difficulties than are delays in expressive language (Chiat & Roy, 2008, 2013; Beitchman et al., 1996), we compared this current keyworker method of assessment with two other tools in relation to a direct standardized assessment of receptive language.
    Seventy monolingual 30-35-month-olds were included. The direct measure was the auditory component of the Preschool Language Scale (PLS), which has been found to have high predictive validity (Chiat & Roy, 2008). The same children were assessed by their keyworkers on three language screening measures: the Language Use Inventory (LUI), the WellComm and the EYFS ‘my unique child’ language and communication sections. Nursery workers also rated children’s attentional difficulties. The Wellcomm had acceptable levels of sensitivity and specificity but only when we adapted the manual guidelines. Both the EYFS and LUI had poor sensitivity. The Wellcomm was the only measure which had concurrent validity (p< .001) when child age, attentional difficulties and keyworker qualifications and experience were factored out, accounting for a significant amount of variance (37.21%).
    The method which most UK nursery keyworkers use to assess the language of two-year-olds does not pick up those who score poorly on direct standardised measures of language comprehension. In fact, the EYFS measure of language comprehension had the poorest relationship of all measures to the auditory component of the PLS. The same keyworkers are much better able to pick out those 2½-year-olds with comprehension delays using the WellComm tool.
  • Kwok, R., Delle Luche, C., Durrant, S., Cattani, A., Rowland, C., Abbot-Smith, K., Krott, A., Mills, D., & Plunkett, K. (2015). Linguistic distance between languages and exposure affect the development of vocabulary in bilingual toddlers: a large-scale study. In Second workshop of the prosodic variation. University of Lisbon, Portugal.
  • Chapman, L., Kirsten, A., Marume, R., & Wood, N. (2015). Predictors of imagination and creativity in verbally fluent children with ASD. In Psychological Perspectives on Autism. University of East Anglia. Retrieved from https://www.uea.ac.uk/psychology/events/psychologicalperspectivesonautism
    One view of the deficit in imagination / creativity in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is that it is intertwined with social communication deficits because both result from poor joint engagement (e.g. Hobson et al., 2015). An alternative view is that imagination deficits are closely linked to ‘restricted interests and repetitive behaviours’ (RRBs) because an executive functions (EF) deficit underlies both (e.g. Jarrold et al, 1996). We examined whether social communication versus RRBs relate to imagination using a dataset of 59 verbally fluent children (4 – 16 years, 18 girls). All were assessed by the fourth author on the ADOS – 2, module 3. Our dependent variable was the ADOS imagination and creativity score, which assesses the degree to which creativity and inventiveness are exhibited, particularly in the 'make believe play' and 'creating a story' tasks. All variables were converted to z scores. Imagination was correlated with communication (p < .01) and social reciprocity (p < .05) but not RRBs (p = .82) or age (.92). RRBs only correlated with communication (p < .05). Social reciprocity and communication were highly intercorrelated (p < .001) which is unsurprising since the communication items measure pragmatics. We analysed the data in a three-step multiple regression analysis, first factoring out age, then entering social reciprocity and communication scores, and finally adding RRBs. Only communication was a significant predictor of the imagination scores (b = .32, SE = .15, t = 2.19, p < .05). Importantly, the relationship found between social communication and imagination is not due to overlap in the scoring or domains of assessment. Our data suggest that deficits in imagination are not closely related to impairments in RRBs. However, we cannot rule out an indirect relationship. We also consider the degree to which the ADOS can accurately measure the tendency to RRBs in high-functioning children.
  • Delle Luche, C., Durrant, S., Cattani, A., Floccia, C., Abbot-Smith, K., Krott, A., Mills, D., Plunkett, K., & Rowland, C. (2015). Evaluating the vocabulary of bilingual toddlers: a large-scale study. In 2015 SRCD Biennial Meeting. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Retrieved from http://www.srcd.org/meetings/biennial-meeting/program-information
  • Abbot-Smith, K., Chang, F., Rowland, C., Ferguson, H., & Pine, J. (2014). Multiple syntactic processing biases that change over development. In Architectures and Mechanisms of Language Processing. Edinburgh. Retrieved from http://www.ppls.ed.ac.uk/AMLaP/
  • Seager, E., Abbot-Smith, K., & Brown, A. (2014). Concurrent validity for 2-year olds of three nursery-worker completed language screening measures with a direct measure of receptive language. In British Psychological Society, Developmental Psychology Section Annual Conference,. Amsterdam. Retrieved from https://www.bps.org.uk/events/conferences/developmental-section-annual-conference-2014
  • Abbot-Smith, K., Croll, R., Forrester, M., Nurmsoo, E., & Ferguson, H. (2014). Training 30-month-olds to take listeners’ informational needs into account. In XIX Biennial International Conference on Infant Studies. Berlin, Germany. Retrieved from http://www.isisweb.org/view/0/ISISconference2014.html

Thesis

  • Landsiedel, J. (2017). Prospective memory in children and adults with autism spectrum disorder.
    Prospective memory (PM) or memory for delayed intentions refers to the ability to remember to carry out a planned intention at an appropriate moment in the future. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by a cognitive profile of strengths and weaknesses, which suggest that PM may be a challenge for individuals with this condition. A small group of studies investigating PM in ASD have produced heterogeneous evidence. Thus, the aim of this thesis was to advance our understanding of PM abilities in ASD. Based on a meta-analysis as well as a thorough review of the existing literature, the experiments in this thesis targeted two main questions. (1) What underpins time-based PM problems in ASD and how could they be addressed? (2) Is event-based PM in ASD impaired or spared? The findings in this thesis indicate that ASD is characterised by time-based PM impairments, which were related to executive functioning, on the one hand, whereas on the other hand event-based PM abilities remain spared. The theoretical and practical implications of these results, as well as directions for future research are discussed.

Forthcoming

  • Yurtaeva, K., Abbot-Smith, K., & Gagarina, N. (2019). Parental screening measures for language development in Russian. In Typical and Atypical Language Development Symposium. Centre for Language and Brain, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia. Retrieved from https://www.hse.ru/en/neuroling/talds_2019
    While a variety of well-established standardised language assessment tools exist in English-speaking countries, only very a few standardised tests with clear norms are available in Russian. The aim of the present study was to contribute to a further development of tests of language ability for monolingual Russian-speaking children. One way to screen young children for a developmental language disorder is by the means of parental questionnaires. However, no such questionnaires are currently standardised for Russian language. We assessed which of the two parent-reported questionnaires, the Russian adaptation of the Children’s Communication Checklist-2 (CCC-2) or the Russian version of the 8-item questionnaire assessing ‘Current Language Skills’ is a more reliable predictor of children’s performance on direct measures of language. The two composite scores available in the CCC-2 (General Communication Composite (GCC), a measure of formal/structural language, and the General Pragmatic Composite (GenPragC), a measure of pragmatic competence) as well as the ‘Current Language Skills’ measure were correlated with the results of a direct assessment of structural and pragmatic language. 19 monolingual typically-developing Russian-speaking children aged between 4;0 and 6;8 years and their parents participated in the study. A strong relationship was found between the parent-reported ‘Current Language Skills’ questionnaire and a direct measure of expressive vocabulary (a Russian version of the Cross Linguistic Lexical Tasks (CLTs), noun production subtest). These results suggest that further investigation is warranted into establishing the validity of a Russian adaptation of the parental questionnaire assessing ‘Current Language Skills’ as a screening tool for a language disorder.
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