Em Richardson: “Working with Words: Improving metalinguistic awareness of words with multiple meanings in autistic children”

In Students by General Account

I studied Linguistics at Newcastle University between 2018-2021. I already had experience working as a private literacy tutor for autistic pupils, and during this time period I became increasingly interested in language acquisition in neurodivergent individuals.

This led me to pursue a career in Speech and Language research, and I am studying PhD Speech and Language Sciences at Newcastle.

My research focusses on improving metalinguistic awareness of words with multiple meanings (WMMs) in autistic children. I am developing an intervention, inspired by speech and language therapy techniques, for use in Special Educational Needs Schools. The Working with Words intervention will aim to improve metalinguistic awareness of homonymy, polysemy and metonymy, which are common types of WMM.

Evidence suggests autistic people show reduced metalinguistic awareness of WMMs; this has been linked to difficulties reading other speakers’ intended meaning in conversation, as well as reduced vocabulary breadth and depth. It is hypothesised that participation in Working With Words will have a positive impact on vocabulary development, as well as potential impact on reading comprehension.