top of page

Emotion recognition in children with ASD, ADHD or DLD: The role of linguistic and cognitive factors

Löytömäki, J., Ohtonen, P., Laakso, M., & Huttunen, K. (2020). The role of linguistic and cognitive factors in emotion recognition difficulties in children with ASD, ADHD or DLD. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 55(2), 231–242.

Would you like to listen to the audio version of this summary?

This research summary has an audio version that could be read aloud to you. Please, click the button below and enjoy.

Key terms in this paper:

  • Linguistic ability: The ability to use vocabulary to express yourself.

  • Working memory: The ability to recall relevant information during a task.

  • Theory of Mind: The ability to understand other people’s thoughts and feelings.

  • Emotion recognition: The process of identifying your own emotions and the emotions of others.

Aim of the paper:

Emotion recognition is an important part of children’s communication and development. Many children with DLD struggle to recognise and understand emotions. These difficulties are shared by children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A person’s linguistic and cognitive abilities (e.g., working memory and Theory of Mind) can affect their emotion recognition skills. However, it is unclear how these factors explain emotion recognition difficulties in ADHD, ASD and DLD.

The aims of this study were to:

  • Explore and compare the emotion recognition abilities of children with ADHD, ASD and DLD.

  • Identify which factors may predict emotion recognition skills.

The study included:

  • 50 children (aged 6-10 years) with either ASD, ADHD or DLD

  • 106 typically developing children of the same age

  • The participants completed different linguistic, cognitive and emotion recognition tasks.

What was found?

  • Children with ADHD, ASD or DLD had similar linguistic, cognitive and emotion recognition abilities.

  • For each group, cognitive and emotion recognition skills were delayed compared to typically developing children.

  • Only the children with DLD were significantly delayed in their linguistic abilities, when compared with the typically developing group.

  • Linguistic and cognitive abilities predicted delays in emotion recognition for children with ADHD, ASD or DLD. This was not assessed in the typically developing group.

What does this mean?

Children with ADHD, ASD and DLD have similar difficulties with emotion recognition, compared to their typically developing peers. Linguistic and cognitive skills are important for recognising emotions. Interventions to improve emotion recognition should therefore focus on these skills. The results indicate that emotion recognition interventions designed for children with ADHD and ASD could also be used for children with DLD.

Where can I read this paper?

This paper is open access, which means everyone can read it.

Please click here to find the full paper


bottom of page