Language development in typical children follows specific developmental sequences and demonstrates inherent biases at certain stages. It is not known to what degree language development in children with autism follows the same developmental rules or achieves language comprehension via different routes. The proposed study investigates two interrelated questions: First, are the processes of language acquisition and development in autism similar to that of typically developing children? And second, what do language comprehension measures reveal about the processes and products of language acquisition in children with autism? The proposed longitudinal study will use a language comprehension paradigm (Intermodal Preferential Looking, IPL) that has revealed important information about language in typically children between 15 and 36 months of age but has only just begun to be used with autism. It combines the ability to display dynamic events with the necessity of only minimal response (visual fixation) and may reveal strengths and weaknesses not shown on standardized testing. Participants will be 18-42 months old, recently diagnosed with autism/PDD and about to begin an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) program. A baseline assessment before treatment will be followed by assessments at 4-month intervals for 2+years, plus a final assessment at 6-8 years. IPL will b used to examine multiple aspects of language such as word order in sentences and biases in word learning;the children will also be videotaped during naturalistic interaction with their mothers to provide information about spontaneous language production. Standardized assessments of the children's linguistic, nonverbal, and social functioning will also be obtained. Analyses will focus on (a) the degree to which comprehension precedes production, (b) the degree to which preferential looking measures reveal more language abilities than are demonstrated with traditional response methods and tests, (c) whether language development in ABA-treated children with autism follows typical progressions and inherent biases, and (d) how early patterns of language development might predict ASD children's language abilities at ages 6-8.

Public Health Relevance

This project has the potential to provide useful new information to aid in developing treatment plans for children with autism. The project may pinpoint subtle deficits and strengths in the language of children with autism, as well as to illuminate possibly different developmental pathways in their language acquisition, both of which may guide new treatment protocols, especially early in development.

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Institute
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Type
Research Project (R01)
Project #
5R01DC007428-08
Application #
8280389
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-BBBP-C (02))
Program Officer
Cooper, Judith
Project Start
2005-07-01
Project End
2014-06-30
Budget Start
2012-07-01
Budget End
2014-06-30
Support Year
8
Fiscal Year
2012
Total Cost
$397,425
Indirect Cost
$137,670
Name
University of Connecticut
Department
Psychology
Type
Schools of Arts and Sciences
DUNS #
614209054
City
Storrs-Mansfield
State
CT
Country
United States
Zip Code
06269
Tovar, Andrea T; Fein, Deborah; Naigles, Letitia R (2015) Grammatical aspect is a strength in the language comprehension of young children with autism spectrum disorder. J Speech Lang Hear Res 58:301-10
Tek, Saime; Mesite, Laura; Fein, Deborah et al. (2014) Longitudinal analyses of expressive language development reveal two distinct language profiles among young children with autism spectrum disorders. J Autism Dev Disord 44:75-89
Naigles, Letitia R; Kelley, Elizabeth; Troyb, Eva et al. (2013) Residual difficulties with categorical induction in children with a history of autism. J Autism Dev Disord 43:2048-61
Naigles, Letitia R; Bavin, Edith L (2013) Introduction: special issue on atypical development. J Child Lang 40:1-10
Tek, Saime; Jaffery, Gul; Swensen, Lauren et al. (2012) The Shape Bias is Affected by Differing Similarity Among Objects. Cogn Dev 27:28-38
Goodwin, Anthony; Fein, Deborah; Naigles, Letitia R (2012) Comprehension of wh-questions precedes their production in typical development and autism spectrum disorders. Autism Res 5:109-23
Naigles, Letitia R; Kelty, Emma; Jaffery, Rose et al. (2011) Abstractness and continuity in the syntactic development of young children with autism. Autism Res 4:422-37
Tek, Saime; Jaffery, Gul; Fein, Deborah et al. (2008) Do children with autism spectrum disorders show a shape bias in word learning? Autism Res 1:208-22
Lee, Joanne N; Naigles, Letitia R (2008) Mandarin learners use syntactic bootstrapping in verb acquisition. Cognition 106:1028-37