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Concurrent Social Communication Predictors of Expressive Language in Minimally Verbal Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Meredith PecukonisEmail author
  • Daniela Plesa Skwerer
  • Brady Eggleston
  • Steven Meyer
  • Helen Tager-Flusberg
Original Paper

Abstract

Numerous studies have investigated the predictors of language in pre-verbal toddlers and verbally fluent children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The present study investigated the concurrent relations among expressive language and a set of empirically-selected social communication variables—joint attention, imitation, and play—in a unique sample of 37 minimally verbal (MV) children and adolescents with ASD. Results revealed that imitation and play were significantly correlated with expressive language, even when controlling for non-verbal IQ, but joint attention was not. Imitation was the only predictor variable to reach significance within the regression model. Findings demonstrate that predictors of expressive language vary for subpopulations of the autism spectrum, and have broader implications for intervention design for older, MV individuals with ASD.

Keywords

Autism spectrum disorder Minimally verbal Expressive language Joint attention Imitation Play 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank all of the participants and their families, as well as colleagues, staff, and students at the Center for Autism Research Excellence who assisted with recruitment and data collection, especially Robert Joseph, Karen Chenausky, Briana Brukilacchio, Anne Yoder, and Tim Brown, who provided advice on the statistical methods. MP participated in study design, performed statistical analyses and interpretation of data, assisted with video coding, and drafted the manuscript. DPS participated in study design and coordination, and revised the manuscript critically for intellectual content. SM assisted with data acquisition and video coding. BE assisted with data acquisition and video coding. HTF conceived of the study, participated in its design and interpretation of data, and revised the manuscript critically for intellectual content. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Funding

This study was funded by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (P50DC013027).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed involving human participants in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research board at Boston University and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychological & Brain SciencesBoston UniversityBostonUSA
  2. 2.Center for Autism Research ExcellenceBostonUSA

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