Comprehension and Language Learning (CALL) Lab
The Mission of the Comprehension and Language Learning (CALL) Lab is to identify profiles, underlying skills, and effective clinical interventions in spoken and written language comprehension to improve educational and occupational outcomes for individuals with developmental disabilities, especially those with autism.
ResearchThe CALL Lab is committed to investigating spoken and written language comprehension in individuals with autism.
Our TeamThe lab consists of several undergraduate and graduate research assistants with varying responsibilities including data collection, coding of audio files, and all day-to-day functions within the lab.
Autism researchers and advocates increasingly oppose a view of autism as an undesirable condition, viewing autism instead as an identity. This change in view is emerging as part of the neurodiversity movement, a movement encouraging the public to view differences in brain functioning as natural and to acknowledge society's role in removing barriers for neurodiverse individuals.
One part of this movement as it relates to terminology is a move towards identity-first language. Many researchers and clinicians use person-first language to describe autistic participants and clients. For example, using person-first language, one describes an autistic individual as a "person with autism," referring to the individual first and then their autism diagnosis. In contrast, using identity-first language, one refers to the same individual as an "autistic person;" just as one might refer to a "tall person" or an "Australian person." Identity-first language presents autism as a part of an individual's identity rather than a condition. As seen in a study conducted by Kenny et al. in Autism, emerging research shows a preference for identity-first language among autistic adults in the U.K.; although, family members still showed preference for person-first language. Similarly, Bury et al.'s study in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders indicates more varied preferences among autistic adults in Australia.
Beyond promoting identity-first language, autism advocates have pointed at other terms that fail to reflect participants' neurodiversity accurately. For example, the term "typically developing" is often used in autism research to describe a non-autistic control group. Since researchers rarely screen for all possible developmental differences within these control groups, this term does not account for neurodiversity among these participants (such as ADHD). Likewise, terms such as "high functioning" and "low functioning" fail to account for an autistic individual's unique strengths and needs. Instead of using these terms, advocates urge researchers to describe autistic individuals' specific strengths and levels of support.
To promote language which accurately reflects autistic individuals' experiences and preferences, the CALL Lab research team is adopting identity-first language. While our previous publications have used person-first language and terms such as "typically developing," we are committed to using language which accurately reflects participants' preferences and neurodiversity in future publications and lab communication. To ensure that we are being respectful of all views on these terminology shifts, we may sometimes use both person-first and identify-first language or one or the other. We will survey our participants to ask for their preferences for person-first or identity-first language, and use the language preferred by those participants and their families in each study. We will also continue to monitor and update our terminology as new understandings or preferences develop.
To learn more about autism terminology, we recommend Bottema-Beutel et al.'s article, Avoiding Ableist Language: Suggestions for Autism Researchers, as well as this post by Autism Self Advocacy Network intern Lydia Brown.