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Comparison and structural alignment processes of learning new relational concepts in children with ASD

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Aim: examine structural mapping processes that occur during acquisition of new relational concepts among children with various disabilities.
Method: Participants included , 24 children (ages 8-16) with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), 24 children (ages 5-8) with high functioning autism spectrum disorders (HFASD), and 24 children (ages 5-6)with typical development (TD) , all matched in receptive mental language age. A computerized task included 13 sets of graphic representations (familiar, partly familiar and unknown items) presented in novel spatial configurations with and without comparison to the standards. Children were asked to extend the original standard/s to one of two alternatives (matching item or relational configuration).
Results: demonstrate that when one standard was available (no comparison), all participants demonstrated a preference style for extending concepts by matching to items rather than to relational structures. However, when presented with two standards (with comparison), children with TD and IDD demonstrated significant increase in their tendency for matching based on relational concepts, while participants with HFASD did not change their preference and continued selection based on item matching. When presented with familiar and partially familiar stimuli, there was a significant increase in selection of relational concepts for children with TD and IDD, with no difference for children with HFASD.
Conclusions: Results demonstrate that while children with IDD and TD benefited from the opportunity provided for in-depth analysis of the connections between the graphic representations that were presented to them through comparison and familiarity processes, this was not evident for children with ASD.


Orit Hetzroni    
Univesity of Haifa

Meital Hessler    
University of Haifa


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