Objectives: To examine whether or not there are language and literacy subtypes in young children with a high-functioning autism spectrum disorder.
Methods: Participants completed standardised measures of cognition, phonological processing, structural language (semantics, syntax), pragmatics, reading, and spelling. Ability groups were then formed on the basis of the children’s structural language and decoding scores regardless of their diagnostic group.
Results: Children with a HFASD exhibited a wide range of language and literacy skills. Some participants demonstrated structural language and literacy outcomes comparable to typically developing children whilst others had structural language and literacy skills that paralleled those of children with SLI, SRD, or combined SLI-SRD. Additionally, a few HFASD participants presented with above average structural language and literacy ability.
Conclusions: With regard to language and literacy, HFASD comprises a heterogeneous group of individuals. Whilst pragmatic language impairment is mandatory regardless of ability level structural language deficits are not. Furthermore, decoding and reading comprehension were similarly variable. The view that a majority of children with a HFASD have intact decoding combined with impaired reading comprehension was not supported.