Reading decoding and comprehension in children with autism spectrum disorders: Evidence from a language with regular orthography

Rosa Zuccarello, Francesco Domenico Di Blasi, Marinella Zingale, Simonetta Panerai, Maria Finocchiaro, Grazia Trubia, Serafino Buono, Pierluigi Zoccolotti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Abstract Decoding and comprehension skills in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) were analysed in children native speakers of a language (Italian) with a highly regular orthography. Children with ASD were compared to children with matched intellectual functioning: a subgroup of children with ASD and borderline intellectual functioning (BIF) was compared to a subgroup of children with BIF but no signs of ASD; a subgroup of children with ASD and cognitive functioning within normal limits was compared to a group of typically developing children. Children with ASD (whether with or without BIF) showed essentially spared decoding skills in text as well as word and pseudo-word reading; this was at variance with children with BIF who, as a group, showed overall deficient decoding skills, despite considerable individual differences. By contrast, children with ASD (once again, irrespective of the presence of BIF) showed a selective impairment in reading comprehension, just like children with BIF but unlike the typically developing ones. Therefore, results are generally consistent with a profile of hyperlexia for children with ASD learning a regular orthography, as previously reported for other languages. Notably, this pattern was present irrespective of the degree of cognitive impairment, and clearly distinguished these children from those with borderline intellectual functioning but not signs of autism.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1060
Pages (from-to)126-134
Number of pages9
JournalResearch in Autism Spectrum Disorders
Publication statusPublished - Jul 9 2015


  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Borderline functioning
  • Comprehension
  • Reading

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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