Prelinguistic Predictors of Vocabulary in Young Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders

McDuffie, Andrea; Yoder, Paul; Stone, Wendy
October 2005
Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research;Oct2005, Vol. 48 Issue 5, p1080
Academic Journal
Purpose: The goal of the current study was to identify a predictive model of vocabulary comprehension and production in a group of young children with autism spectrum disorders. Four prelinguistic behaviors were selected for consideration as predictors based on theoretical and empirical support for the relationship of these behaviors to language development. Method: The study used a longitudinal correlational design. Participants were twenty-nine 2- and 3-year-olds diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. The prelinguistic behaviors--attention-following, motor imitation, commenting, and requesting--were measured at the initial visit. Vocabulary comprehension and production were measured 6 months later. Results: Commenting was the only unique predictor of comprehension after the degree of cognitive delay was controlled. Both commenting and motor imitation of actions without objects were unique predictors of production over and above the other skills and when the degree of cognitive delay was controlled. Conclusions: The finding that both commenting and motor imitation simultaneously accounted for unique variance in vocabulary production is new to the literature and requires replication. However, results suggest that increasing behaviors that allow children with autism to make their current focus of attention obvious to social partners may be an effective approach for supporting word learning in young children with autism.


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