April 1, 2013 Departments

From the Journals: April 2013

Developmental Level Determines Best Linguistic Input for Children With Autism

A child's developmental level may determine what type of linguistic input best facilitates language learning, according to a study published in the February 2013 issue of the American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology. The data suggest that children with autism spectrum disorders and minimal linguistic skills may benefit from parental language input that follows the child's focus of attention. However, children with ASDs who are verbally fluent may need more advanced language input to facilitate language development.

Researchers digitally capturedand coded parent-child play samples—using a standard toy set—for children's engagement with objects and communication acts, and for parents' verbal responses to play and communication. The authors examined longitudinal associations between these two categories of responsiveness and language comprehension and production one year later in 40 toddlers and preschoolers diagnosed with an ASD.

After controlling for parent education, child engagement and initial language level, those parent directives for language that followed the child's focus of attention accounted for unique variance in predicting comprehension and production one year later. In a series of exploratory analyses, the authors found that parent comments that followed into the child's focus of attention also accounted for unique variance in later comprehension and production for children who were minimally verbal.

Toddlers' Distress Noises May Indicate an ASD

Distress vocalizations may be a potential early indicator of autism spectrum disorders, according to a study in the December 2012 issue of the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, but the authors recommend further examination. Additionally, the study highlighted the importance of early communicative vocalizations for later language development.

Researchers examined the vocalizations of children with ASDs in the second year of life, to determine these vocalizations' relationship to other areas of development. The authors studied vocalizations in 125 children age 18–24 months: 50 later diagnosed with ASDs; 25 with developmental delays in which ASDs were ruled out; and 50 typically developing children. Researchers coded video-recorded behavior samples from the Communication and Symbolic Behavior Scales Developmental Profile to obtain precise measures of vocalizations.

The group with ASDs used a significantly lower proportion of vocalizations with speech sounds, and a significantly higher proportion of atypical vocalizations than typically developing children. Those with ASDs used a significantly higher proportion of distress vocalizations than the typically developing group and the group with a developmental disorder. The frequency of vocalizations with speech sounds for children with ASDs correlated significantly with developmental levels both concurrently and predictively. For this group, communicative vocalizations late in the second year uniquely predict expressive language outcome at age 3.

When Planning Interventions for Children With Autism, Consider Nonverbal Skills

Some children with severe language delays do not attain phrase or fluent speech until age 4 or later, according to a study published online in Pediatrics (March 4). The results highlight the importance of evaluating and considering nonverbal skills—both cognitive and social—when developing interventions and setting goals for language development.

Researchers examined the prevalence and predictors of language attainment in children with autism spectrum disorders and severe language delay. They hypothesized more severe autism symptoms and lower intelligence among children who do not attain phrase/fluent speech, with nonverbal intelligence and social engagement emerging as the strongest predictors of outcome.

Scientists gathered data from 535 children with ASDs age 8 and older who acquired phrase speech after age 4 and examined predictors of phrase and fluent speech attainment and age at acquisition, respectively.

No demographic or child psychiatric characteristics were associated with phrase speech attainment after age 4, whereas slightly older age and increased internalizing symptoms were associated with fluent speech. In the multivariate analyses, higher nonverbal IQ and less social impairment were both independently associated with the acquisition of phrase and fluent speech, as well as earlier age at acquisition. Stereotyped behavior/repetitive interests and sensory interests were not associated with delayed speech acquisition.


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