Expressive Language Profiles in Chinese Preschool Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Assessment with the Putonghua Communicative Development Inventory (Toddler Form)

Friday, May 16, 2014
Atrium Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Atlanta)
Y. Su1, L. Naigles2 and L. Y. Su1, (1)Mental Health Institute, The Second Xiangya Hospital, Central South University, Changsha, China, (2)Psychology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT
Background:  Recent research has highlighted the heterogeneity of language abilities in English-exposed children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) (Kjelgaard & Tager-Flusberg, 2001), including their different trajectories in early language production (Tek et al., 2013). Little is known about expressive language profiles in children with ASD learning other languages.

Objectives:  To depict expressive language profiles in Chinese preschool children with ASD via the Putonghua Communicative Development Inventory: Words and Sentences (PCDI-Toddler Form).

Methods:  Parents of 26 2-5-year-old children with ASD (24 boys and 2 girls, mean = 49. 92 ± 12. 46 months) completed the PCDI-Toddler Form. Children were divided into three subgroups - Low Verbal (LV) (n = 9, mean = 42.33 ± 10.43 months), Middle Verbal (MV) (n = 10, mean = 51.50 ± 13.96 months) and High Verbal (HV) (n = 7; mean = 57.43 ± 7.27 months), based on word production in the vocabulary checklist (LV: 0 – 69 words; MV: 70 – 392 words; HV: 393 words and above). Language abilities were compared among the subgroups and with the published TD norms (Tardif et al., 2008).

Results:  (1) Word production differed significantly across subgroups (LV: 8. 44 ± 12.02; MV: 281.00 ± 70.20; HV: 564.43 ± 149.37, ps ≤ 0.002). The LV group scored less than the HV group in all the 10 items (ps ≤ 0.014) and than the MV group on 4 items (ps ≤ 0.009) in sections of “how children use words”, “words and sentences” and “combining”; the MV group performed worse than the HV group on 6 items (ps ≤ 0.034). MLUs for the LV, MV, and HV groups were 0, 2.33 ± 1.07 and 3.57 ±1.69 respectively, significantly lower in the LV group than in the other two groups (ps ≤ 0.014). Sentence complexity scores differed significantly across subgroups (LV: 0, MV: 18.78 ± 12.80, HV: 49.14 ± 24.09, ps ≤ 0.045). (2) The LV group performed poorer than TD children aged 16 months in all the measures. The MV and the HV groups were matched to TD children aged 20.20 ± 0.92 and 25. 00 ± 3.27 months based on word production. The proportions of children’s use of words referring to “past, future and absent objects/people” were significantly lower than the TD norms by the MV group in all the 5 items (ps≤0.002) and by the HV group in 4 items (ps≤0.001). Both groups were compatible to matched TD groups in the use of classifiers (ps ≥ 0.395), but not with possessives and tense markers (MV: ps ≤0.026; HV: ps = 0.070) or word combination (ps ≤ 0.001). MLUs were similar in the MV group but lower in the HV group. The MV group scored higher and the HV group equivalently as TD children in sentence complexity.

Conclusions:  There is an overall expressive language delay for Chinese children with ASD: the LV group demonstrated a global impairment; the HV group performed generally better than the MV group, both showing difficulties in some uses of sentences and grammar than the vocabulary-matched TD groups.