City Research Online

Assessing 'coherence' in the spoken narrative accounts of autistic people: A systematic scoping review

Harvey, A. ORCID: 0000-0001-9984-1595, Spicer-Cain, H. ORCID: 0000-0003-0428-770X, Botting, N. ORCID: 0000-0003-1082-9501 , Ryan, G. & Henry, L. ORCID: 0000-0001-5422-4358 (2023). Assessing 'coherence' in the spoken narrative accounts of autistic people: A systematic scoping review. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 102, article number 102108. doi: 10.1016/j.rasd.2023.102108


Background: The ability to produce a well-structured, coherent narrative account is essential for successful everyday communication. Research suggests that autistic people may find this challenging, and that narrative assessment can reveal pragmatic difficulties in this population that are missed on sentence-level tasks. Previous studies have used different methodologies to assess spoken narrative skills in autism. This review systematically examined these approaches and considered their utility for assessing narrative coherence.

Method: Keyword database searches were conducted, with records screened by two independent reviewers. Eligible studies (n= 59) included specified frameworks for evaluating structure/coherence in spoken narrative accounts by autistic participants of any age. Studies were categorised according to the type of narrative scoring scheme used, and strengths and limitations were considered.

Results: Over 80% of included articles reported observational cross-sectional studies, with participants generally matched on age and cognitive ability with non-autistic comparison groups. The most common approaches involved coding key elements of narrative structure (‘story grammar’) or scoring the inclusion of pre-determined ‘main events’. Alternative frameworks included ‘holistic’ rating scales and subjective quality judgements by listeners. Some studies focused specifically on ‘coherence’, measuring diverse aspects such as causal connectedness and incongruence. Scoring criteria varied for each type of framework.

Conclusions: Findings indicated that solely assessing story structure ignores important features contributing to the coherence of spoken narrative accounts. Recommendations are that future research consider the following elements: (1) context, (2) chronology, (3) causality, (4) congruence, (5) characters (cognition/emotion), and (6) cohesion; and scoring methods should include rating scales to obtain sufficiently detailed information about narrative quality.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons CC-BY license, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Publisher Keywords: Autism, Narrative, Coherence, Macrostructure, Story grammar
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Language & Communication Science
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Nursing
SWORD Depositor:
[thumbnail of 1-s2.0-S1750946723000077-main.pdf]
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (2MB) | Preview
[thumbnail of Assessing 'coherence’ in the spoken narrative accounts of autistic people - A systematic scoping review.pdf] Text - Accepted Version
This document is not freely accessible due to copyright restrictions.
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.


Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics

Actions (login required)

Admin Login Admin Login