Invited talk 1

Unpicking cognitive and socio-cognitive processes related to the development of proficient conversational ability

Kirsten Abbot-Smith

Conversational ability is critical for peer relations, well-being and collaboration with others. Even amongst children within no known or suspected disabilities (neurotypical children) there are huge individual differences in conversational ability, which continue through adolescence and adulthood. Certain neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism are associated with conversational disability. However, our own data reveals not only differences but marked similarities between (verbally-fluent) autistic and neurotypical child samples. In both our neurotypical and our autistic child samples, we find large individual differences in conversational ability. To understand the nature of these individual differences, we need to understand what conversational ‘ability’ actually entails, how we can reliably measure it and which cognitive and socio-cognitive abilities contribute unique variance to conversational proficiency. In this talk, I will discuss some of the methodological hurdles we need to overcome before we can start to unpick this issue.