Trial of Three Investigative Interview Techniques with Adolescents with Autism Recalling a Narrative

Dr Lydia Timms1, Miss Keely Galvin1, Dr Neville  Hennessey1

1Curtin University, Perth, Australia

Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are over represented in the Criminal Justice System and are often required to recount their experiences, a task particularly challenging for people with ASD. The current study explores the effectiveness of three interview protocols to elicit coherent, accurate and detailed recounts of filmed events. Twenty-four adolescents with ASD (aged 13 to 17 years; 80% male) were recruited and compared to a comparison group of adolescents without ASD. Participants watched three short films, chosen for their narrative detail and salience for the population. A stressful environment (speaking to avatars of unknown interviewers) was created to replicate some aspects of the context in which they might be asked to recall experiences for police. They were then asked to recall each of the films using three randomly assignment interview conditions: (1) a free recount of the film, with minimal verbal prompting, (2) open questioning that replicates current police interviewing protocol and (3) visual cue cards in addition to the open questioning to support their narrative. These protocols are designed to address challenges faced by Adolescents with ASD, including weak central coherence and reduced theory of mind and to correspond with similar trials conducted with other populations (e.g. young children and minimally verbal adults). Measures of coherence (organisation structure and cohesive ties), detail (number of episodes and details) and accuracy (proportion of correct details) will be reported and can guide investigative interviewers on how to best elicit accurate narrative details from adolescents with ASD.


Dr Lydia Timms is an experienced speech pathologist, Currently Employed as a teaching and research academic at Curtin University. She recently completed a Post-Doc Research Fellowship with the Centre of Investigative Interviewing, Griffith University, based at the Adelaide Attorney General’s Department, working towards improvements in disability justice. She has been heavily involved in the creation of the Speech Pathology Australia clinical guidelines for Justice and Mental Health. She has completed her doctorate with Curtin University on Indigenous literacy, ear health and cultural considerations in primary schools. She has worked as a research assistant and consultant with the Center for Investigative Interviewing since 2012; assessing the language of children in care of the Department of Child Protection and assisting in development of best practice interviewing techniques within Indigenous Australian Communities. Dr Timms continues to collaborate with justice practitioners, including Police Interviewer Trainers and state Child Interviewing Teams. She researches in the area of investigative interviewing, disability justice and communication with vulnerable populations and supervisors research students and teaches justice related content to tertiary students.


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