Published online by Cambridge University Press: 10 May 2017
The nature of structural language difficulties in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) was explored in a comparative study with specific language impairment (SLI) through investigation of the frequently reported ASD weakness in receptive skills relative to expressive skills. Twenty French-speaking children with ASD aged 6 to 12 were compared to age-matched children with SLI on production and comprehension of wh-questions. The two groups displayed similar effects of the complexity of the different wh-strategies. In the ASD group (as in the SLI group), these effects were not greater in comprehension compared to production; moreover, nonverbal ability (which varied from normal to impaired) was not related to language performance. Observed ASD-SLI differences are argued to largely be due to ASD pragmatic deficits, rather than to a qualitative difference in structural language skills.