Moving beyond binaries: Appreciating the complexities of autism and language learning (response to kissine)

Sudha Arunachalam, Jonet Artis, Rhiannon Luyster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We discuss three points relevant to Kissine’s (2021) target article on autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and its implications for theories of language acquisition. First, we argue that individuals with ASD do have social communication abilities and that these are linked to their language abili-ties; therefore, ASD does not provide evidence that language competence and language use are dissociable. Second, we argue that typically developing children show remarkable abilities to learn new words in noninteractive situations, and thus these abilities are not unique to ASD. Third, we point out that even noninteractive situations can serve as models for, and can implicate, chil-dren’s social communication abilities. In sum, we agree with Kissine that children (with and without ASD) are skilled language learners, able to take diverse paths to learning and to benefit from many different kinds of learning situations. However, as to whether these abilities in themselves demonstrate a threat to constructionist approaches to language acquisition, we do not think that Kissine has accrued a compelling case.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e161-e168
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Language acquisition
  • Overhearing
  • Speech-language pathology
  • Word learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


Dive into the research topics of 'Moving beyond binaries: Appreciating the complexities of autism and language learning (response to kissine)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this