Autism and tenseless languages

I’m reading Keiko Tobe’s With The Light at the moment, which is a really fascinating look at autism and family life, and, for the first few parts, the ways that autism runs counter to Japanese social expectations– which is really interesting.

The book is written in a kind of didactic, repetitive way. One of the things they repeat is that the autistic do better when they can “have an outlook,” i.e. an expectation of what will be coming next. This makes me wonder, though, about the way the autistic function in places where languages lack tense in the way Indo-European languages do. Do the autistic function less well in places where it’s impossible to explicitly designate the sequence of events syntactically? Or do they do just fine, implying that it’s not a series of events or narrative sequence per se that is important, but some kind of sensitization that’s independent of narrative sequence and the world of grammatical tense?


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