An In-Depth Analysis of Expository Writing in Children With and Without Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Elizabeth HilvertEmail author
  • Denise Davidson
  • Cheryl M. Scott
Original Paper


Using detailed linguistic analysis, this study examined the expository writing abilities of school-age children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in comparison to neurotypical (NT) children. Associations between executive functioning (EF) and writing ability in children with and without ASD were also explored. Compared to NT peers, children with ASD wrote shorter expository texts that contained more grammatical errors, and needed more assistance from the experimenter to complete the writing assessment. However, the texts of children with and without ASD did not differ in their lexical diversity, use of writing conventions, and overall quality. Analyses also revealed that greater EF was associated with better writing outcomes in both groups. Educational implications of these findings are discussed.


Autism spectrum disorder Writing Expository Executive functioning 



This study was supported in part by the Arthur J. Schmitt Foundation (Dissertation Fellowship in Leadership and Service, E. Hilvert, PI). Additional funding was provided by the NICHD (T32 HD07489, S. Hartley, PI). We would like to thank all the children, families, and staff at the schools who participated in this research study. We would also like to thank Drs. Perla Gámez and Molly Losh for their input on the study design. Special thanks to Peyton Holleran for her help with transcription and coding. Portions of this research were presented at the annual meeting for the International Society for Autism Research, Rotterdam, Netherlands. This data was collected as part of the first author’s doctoral dissertation.

Author Contributions

EH conceived of the study design, coordinated the study, performed measurement, and drafted the manuscript; DD participated in the design and interpretation of the data, and helped to draft and revise the manuscript; CMS provided input on study design and interpretation of the data, and helped to draft and revise the manuscript. All authors read and approved of the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the host institution and the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyLoyola University ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Department of Communication Disorders and SciencesRush UniversityChicagoUSA
  3. 3.Waisman Center at the University of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA

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