Objectives: The current research investigated language outcomes of children who presented with symptoms of autism in the first few years of life.
Methods: The study included 75 children (age range from 6-24 years) who presented with language delays and symptoms of autism between 2 and 3 years of age and who attended a communication program at a university clinic. Participants were recruited by telephone. Standardized and nonstandardized language measures were administered to a subgroup of participants upon follow-up.
Results: Findings revealed that the majority (81%) of children who presented with severe language delays and symptoms of autism in the first few years of life use verbal language by the time they reach school age. Of the 75 children, 53 (71%) were eventually diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Thirty children with an autism spectrum diagnosis and who were reported to be verbal communicators by their parents were selected for follow-up testing. Results revealed that 37.5% scored within the normal range on the CELF-4 standardized assessment of language and 62.5% scored below the normal range. At the same time, while all these children had a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, not all of them demonstrated pragmatic difficulties as measured on the CELF-4 pragmatics scale.
Conclusions: The majority of the children were found to use verbal language as their primary mode of communication. Language measures demonstrated the variability that characterizes language performance for children on the autism spectrum. Some children scored within the normal range on the standardized measure and yet were not communicatively competent. At the same time, other children scored well below the normal range and yet were able to communicate. Case studies will be presented.
See more of: Epidemiology
See more of: Prevalence, Risk factors & Intervention