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This is an example of one of the fun animations.

What is the purpose of this study?

Complex sentences are sentences where one sentence is ‘nested’ in another – for example if we put the sentence The boy fell into the sentence She caught the boy we end up with the sentence She caught the boy that fell. These sentences are really important for children’s educational success and to help them in conversation with those around them. Despite this we have very little information about which types of complex sentences children find easy or difficult to understand. This project aims to develop an animated computerized assessment of complex sentences, which will allow therapists and teachers gain a more accurate picture of what typically developing children understand and what particular difficulties children with autism experience with these types of sentences. 

Who is this study for?

We are looking for two groups of children to take part in this study. Children with Autism who are aged between 4 and 12 years and children with no history of developmental conditions between the ages of 3 ½ and 4, 4 ½ and 5, 5 ½ and 6 and 6 ½ and 7. 

What will happen if I give permission for my child to take part?

Your child will be seen for 2 sessions each lasting around 30 minutes, either at school, at home, or at the University. These sessions will be completed on different days. Children will listen to different sentences while looking at some short animations on an iPad and will have to decide if the sentence they hear is the correct one that goes with the animation shown. They will also do some short reasoning and other language tasks to see what kinds of sentences they understand best. Finally we will do a quick hearing test just to ensure that even if a child has a cold they can hear everything without any difficulty.

What are the possible disadvantages and benefits of taking part?

There are no known or anticipated risks involved in taking part. In general, the research does not directly help the children who take part, although children usually enjoy taking part. You could be involved in important research findings and what we learn will help teachers and therapists to help children with autism in the future. If you come into the University, we will reimburse your travel expenses.

What will happen at the end of the study?

Once we have seen all the children and gathered the information we will write about the results in the OSCCI newsletter, which is circulated among schools and families who have shown an interest in our projects. We will not report on the results of individual children. All data will be kept confidentially and anonymously. We will write our findings up for a scientific journal and present the findings to other researchers at conferences.

Funding and approval of this research

This study is supported by a Marie Curie ASSISTID research fellowship (Assistive technologies for people with intellectual disability and Autism). The study has been given ethical approval by the Central University Research Ethics Committee (MS-IDREC- R43600/RE001).

What to do next

If you would like to take part in this project, please get in touch with Pauline Frizelle at or 01865 271 334. Pauline would be happy to discuss the project with you before you decide whether to take part, and to answer any questions you may have.