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Ewa Pisula

Interactions of fathers and their children with autism1

The aim of the present study was to compare the activity of fathers and their children with autism with those of children with Down syndrome, and normally developing children during the father-child interaction. Participants were 14 children with autism and their fathers, 15 children with Down syndrome and their fathers, and 16 normally developing children and their fathers. The age of subjects was between 3.0 and 6.0 years old. The study consisted of one 15-minute free-play session in the father-child diad, taking place in the experiment room. Differences between the groups of fathers were found in terms of three variables under analysis: frequency of looking at the child, physical contact with the child and suggesting play. Children with autism brought objects to their fathers or pointed out objects and directed their fathers' attention by vocalising less frequently than children with Down syndrome and normally developing children. Moreover, children with autism exhibited the fewest vocalisations combined with looking at the father and exhibited many more behaviours involving running and moving about the room than normally developing children. Self-stimulating behaviours were the most frequent in children with autism, with no differences in that respect found between children with Down syndrome and normally developing children. The analysis of fathers' behaviour demonstrates that fathers of children with developmental disorders focus on observing their children and attempt to keep close contact with them to a larger extent than fathers of normally developing children. The pattern of differences in the activity of fathers of children with autism and children with Down syndrome does not paint a clear picture. In general, fathers from both groups actively sought to maintain contact with their children. Differences in the activity during play between children with autism and the other subjects in the study are consistent with the clinical features of autism.

Open access

Katarzyna Konopka, Ewa Pisula, Emilia Łojek and Piotr Fudalej

Abstract

The level of metaphor comprehension and interpretation was investigated in a sample of children with cleft palate (CP), aged 6;0-8;11, and healthy controls matched with age, sex, socioeconomic status, and IQ level. The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children - Revised (WISC-R) was used to evaluate the children’s cognitive functioning, and the metaphor tests from a modified version of the Right Hemisphere Language Battery - Polish version (RHLB-PL) were used to assess comprehension of figurative language. The CP and control groups differed significantly in Verbal IQ values and in performance in the Vocabulary test, Comprehension test, Picture Metaphor Explanation test, and Written Metaphor Explanation test. In both metaphor explanation tests, children with CP gave fewer responses than controls. The results suggest no differences between children with CP and controls in understanding figurative language, although they point to weaker performance in communicating responses and producing statements in the CP children group.

Open access

Rafał Kawa and Ewa Pisula

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to compare exploratory behaviours in children with autism and typically developing preschool children and the course of their adaptation to novelty. A series of five repeated trials was conducted, during which children were allowed to freely explore the experimental room. The results revealed differences between study groups in the overall rate of exploratory activity, which was lower in children with autism. Patterns of time characteristics of exploratory activity showed both similarities and differences between the groups. In both groups, the rate of simple exploratory behaviours (i.e. looking at an object, touching the object, manipulating one object) decreased with time, while the levels of diversive exploration (i.e. touching the wall or floor) increased. Children with autism engaged in less complex object manipulation than their peers. Similarly, their adaptation and habituation to a novel environment proceeded in a different way in the low stimulation zone than in the high stimulation zone. In the low and medium stimulation zones, the rate of exploration decreased with time, while in the high stimulation zone it remained relatively constant. In typically developing children, habituation occurred in all stimulation zones. These results suggest the presence of some differences between the patterns of adaptation to novelty in the two groups, which emerge in a stimulation-rich environment. Due to the limitations of the study, in particular the small number of subjects, the present paper should be treated as a preliminary report.