NCI Blog

Autism and the Foundations of Language and Communication Interdisciplinary Conference

Posted by Emily Ferns on 10 March 2015


27th – 29th March Trinity Long Room Hub

With a Guest Lecture by Keynote Speaker Melissa Allen in NCI on Friday 27th March at 11am.

This international and interdisciplinary conference will bring together researchers in the field of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Speakers from psychology, linguistics and philosophy will discuss the nature of language and thought with regard to Autism Spectrum Disorder and other neurodevelopmental disorders. The conference is hosted by Trinity College Dublin’s Arts & Humanities Research Institute, and is a collaboration between National College of Ireland, and different departments and schools within TCD (The School of Psychology, The School of Linguistic, Speech and Communication Sciences, The School of Social Sciences and Philosophy).

One of the organisers, Dr Sinéad McNally from NCI, says the event “promises to be of enormous interest for those seeking to learn more about Autism and also what Autism can tell us about language acquisition and thinking processes more generally”. “The interdisciplinary nature of the conference, bringing together philosophers, psychologists and linguists who work in this field, is particularly exciting, as this conference will offer a novel opportunity to share our findings on these issues and potentially develop new collaborations which cuts across disciplines”, she adds. “We also look forward to welcoming so many international speakers to the conference, including our four keynote speakers: Professor Deirdre Wilson, Professor Luca Surian, Dr Melissa Allen and Professor Naomi Eilan”.

As part of the conference, Dr Melissa Allen of Lancaster University will visit NCI on the 27th of March to give a public lecture entitled "Symbolic understanding of pictures in typical development and autism: divergent processes?” In this talk, Dr Allen will discuss how young children come to understand the dual aspects of pictures. Pictures are symbolic representations and material objects and are important precursors for more complex symbolic manipulations. Young typically developing children are able to use an artist’s intention and language in order to figure out what a picture refers to.  Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), in contrast, appear to learn about pictures via an associative process and focus on what a picture looks like, rather than what it is intended to be.  Dr Allen will discuss this difference and its implications for children with ASD, many of whom use picture-based systems for communication.

The talk by Melissa Allen at NCI will take place at 11am on Friday 27th March. This is a public lecture and all are welcome to attend. Please register in advance at

The interdisciplinary conference will take place in Trinity College. More details on the conference can be found at

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Topics: Events at NCI, Psychology