Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Children with autism may be better at expressive rather than receptive communication

A child with autism might be better at telling you what is on their mind than they are at understanding what is on yours.  This is not surprising (at least to me), but it is worth remembering when you are dealing with children who have autism.

Preschoolers with autism show greater impairment in receptive compared with expressive language abilities.
Hudry K, Leadbitter K, Temple K, Slonims V, McConachie H, Aldred C, Howlin P, Charman T.

daggerCentre for Research in Autism and Education, Department of Psychology and Human Development, Institute of Education, London, UK

Background: In early typical language development, children understand words before they are able to use them in speech. Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) generally show impairments in both the comprehension and the production of language. However, the relative degree of delay or impairment in each of these sub-domains may also be atypical and remains less well-understood.

Aims: Relative delay in receptive and expressive language skills was examined within a large sample of preschoolers with autism. Children's language abilities varied from pre-verbal to fluent speech.

Method & Procedures: Scores on one direct clinician assessment and two parent-report measures of language were obtained for 152 preschoolers with core autism.

Outcomes & Results: As expected, on average, the language ability of the children with autism was lower than typical age norms, albeit with substantial individual variability. On all three language measures, receptive ability was relatively more impaired than expressive ability. Higher non-verbal ability was associated with such an atypical language profile.

Conclusions & Implications: Recognition of the marked receptive language impairment relative to expressive language, found to affect at least one-third of preschoolers with autism in this sample, has important implications for interacting with these children and for informing appropriate targets in language and communication intervention.

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