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Study Probes Children’s Language Outcomes in Autism

By Chelsea E. Toledo, M.A. on May 26, 2015
2015_05_26_verbal ability


Background: According to the National Institutes of Health, as many as 30 percent of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may never develop functional language abilities. However, little research has explored the factors contributing to those children’s verbal deficits.


What’s New: The January 2015 issue of the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry included a study probing the relationship between language acquisition and the severity of symptoms in children with ASD. The researchers assessed the behavior and social abilities of 70 children between the ages of 1 and 5 with ASD, using established observational screenings upon admission into the study, and then again when the child was five years old. They found that, of the 47 children who could not say more than one word at the time of the first observation, only 36 percent (17 children) could utter phrases by the time of the second observation. Minimal verbal ability was linked to the changes in the severity of the children’s social symptoms, but not to repeated behaviors.


Why it’s important: This study adds to research suggesting that a significant portion of children with ASD remain minimally verbal by age 5. Future research over longer periods of time could reveal the precise relationship between the severity of autism symptoms and language acquisition.

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