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Maternal Language Input to Young Children with ASD: Supporting the Transition to Early Word Combinations

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Even with intensive intervention, approximately 30% of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) remain non-speaking or “minimally verbal:” producing only single words and not progressing to generative multi-word combinations. Research indicates that children with ASD who do not develop spoken communication before five years of age have poorer prognoses for successful educational, social, and quality-of-life outcomes. There is an urgent need for additional research into this subgroup of individuals with ASD who are not speaking or are minimally verbal.

One critical component of language development is the linguistic input that children receive from their caregivers. The rich semantic and syntactic information contained in children’s language input are the building blocks that help children acquire semantically and syntactically richer expressive language.

There is less known about the specific content of the language input that minimally verbal children with ASD receive from their caregivers. Understanding the characteristics of input is important because this may impact children’s language development. Few studies have looked at the specific grammatical content of caregiver input to their children with ASD. This poster will present the results of a descriptive group design study investigating the maternal language input to young children with autism who are transitioning from first words to word combinations. AAC is a critically important modality for minimally verbal children with ASD at beginning communication stages and the transition to word combinations.


Beth Breakstone    
Penn State University
United States

Janice Light    
Penn State University
United States


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