Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 48, Issue 2, pp 485–501 | Cite as

Assessing Personal Constructs of Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Person-Centered Measure of Social Cognition

  • Sean HessEmail author
  • Trisha Self
  • Anthony DiLollo
Original Paper


Many protocols assessing social communication skills of adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are based on behavioral observations. It has been suggested, however, that social cognition encompasses processes underlying observable behaviors. Such processes include personal constructs, which can be assessed using repertory grids. Personal constructs of five adolescents with ASD with average or above average intelligence and receptive and expressive language skills were explored using repertory grids in this study. With visual structure and verbal scaffolding, all participants successfully engaged in the repertory grid process. Data suggest participants had well organized, complex construct systems, a significant understanding of social roles, and were interested in social interactions. Repertory grids may provide additional person-centered information for assessing social communication skills in ASD.


Autism Adolescent Person-centered assessment Personal constructs Social cognition Repertory grid 



This study was not supported by grants or other financial supports. Colleagues who assisted in the study included Terese Conrad, MA, CCC-SLP, Clinical Supervisor at the Wichita State University Evelyn Hendren Cassat Speech-Language Hearing Clinic; Mary Beasley, MA, CCC-SLP, Director of the Wichita State University Evelyn Hendren Cassat Speech-Language Hearing Clinic; and Patrice Rawlins, APRN, Teaching Associate for the University of Kansas’ Department of Pediatrics and Child Development. This study has been taken from the doctoral dissertation “An Exploration of Personal Constructs and Cognitive Complexities of Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder”, which was submitted to the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders and the faculty of the Graduate School of Wichita State University in Wichita, KS, USA in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctorate of Philosophy by Sean Hess in December, 2015.

Author Contributions

SH conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination, performed the measurements and statistical analyses, participated in interpreting the data, and drafted the manuscript. TS and AD conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination, participated in interpreting the data, and helped draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


This study was not funded.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declares that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in this study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent and informed assent were obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Wesley Medical CenterWichitaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Communication Sciences & DisordersWichita State UniversityWichitaUSA

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