Date of Completion


Thesis Type

College of Arts and Science Honors



First Advisor

Emily L. Coderre

Second Advisor

Sayamwong Hammack

Third Advisor

Michael S. Cannizzaro


ASD, narrative structure, visual narrative comprehension, semantic processing


Understanding a story (“narrative comprehension”) is often difficult for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), regardless of whether stories are told through language (“linguistic narratives”) or pictures (“visual narratives”). Narrative comprehension across modalities requires understanding meaning (“semantics”) and understanding grammar (“structure”). While it is well-established that individuals with ASD have difficulties with semantic processing, little is known about whether difficulties with structural processing contribute to impaired narrative comprehension. This study tested, via measurements of neural activity, our prediction of whether structural processing is impaired during visual narrative comprehension in individuals with ASD compared to typically developing (TD) individuals. Our results on semantic processing in ASD replicated what has been found in prior language studies, with the TD group showing an increased sensitivity to semantic relatedness in early time windows and the ASD group showing an increased sensitivity at later time windows. Importantly, we also observed differences in structural processing for ASD groups compared to TD groups, such that individuals with ASD showed reduced sensitivity to the presence of narrative grammar. These novel results indicate potential narrative comprehension difficulties in individuals with ASD.