Pragmatic Language Skills of Children with Developmental Disabilities: A Descriptive and Relational Study in Turkey

Özlem DİKEN*
*Dr. Anadolu University


Problem Statement: Because communication skills, particularly pragmatic skills, are fundamental for living an independent life in society, these skills are vital to the quality of life of individuals with developmental disabilities (DD) and their families. Studies of the pragmatic skills of individuals with DD can provide important insights into the communication skills of these individuals, facilitating the design and delivery of appropriate and effective services for these individuals and their families. Thus, describing and comparing the pragmatic language skills of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and intellectual disability (ID) in Turkey is important because communication skills represent one of the most important developmental domains for the quality of life of individuals with DD.

Purpose of Study: The purpose of this study was to explore the pragmatic language skills of children with DD (ASD and ID) in Turkey.

Methods: This descriptive and relational study was carried out with a sample of 86 children with DD, including 34 children with ASD and 52 children with ID. Data were collected using the Turkish Version of the Gilliam Autism Rating Scale-2 (TV-GARS-2) and the Turkish Version of the Pragmatic Language Skills Inventory (TV-PLSI).

Findings and Results: The results revealed that the majority of the participants exhibited very poor pragmatic language skills. The results of the correlation analysis revealed a significant negative correlation between Autism Index scores and Pragmatic Language Skills Index scores. The results also revealed significant differences in TV-PLSI scores between children with ASD and children with ID. Children with ID had a higher level of pragmatic skills than children with ASD. Communication Skills suscale of TV-GARS-2 explained 30 percent of the variance in pragmatic language skills of children with ASD. In contrast, the other two scales (i.e., Stereotyped Behavior and Social Interaction) did not contribute significantly to the model.

Conclusions and Recommendations: Consistent with the international literature, Turkish children with DD also exhibit lower levels of pragmatic skills than children with typical development and children with ID have higher scores than children with ASD. Communication skills explained 30% of the variance and represented the best predictor of pragmatic language skills among children with ASD. More studies that include larger samples are needed. Services and intervention programs should consider addressing pragmatic language skills.

Keywords: Pragmatic language skills, developmental disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, intellectual disability, Turkish sample.