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HomeLanguage NewsnewsSimple Speech May Slow Autistic Children

Simple Speech May Slow Autistic Children

A new study, published in Cognition, suggests that because parents speak to their autistic children using fewer words and less complex sentences than do parents of typical children, the development of autistic children’s language skills may be inhibited. Were this to be proven, it would call into question the common recommendation that parents speak in simple sentences to autistic children.

The study produced six major findings:

1/ Children’s production of word types, tokens, and MLU increased across visits, and were predicted by their Expressive Language (EL) (positively) and diagnosis (negatively) from Visit 1.

2/ Parents’ production also increased across visits and was predicted by their child’s nonverbal cognition (positively) and diagnosis (negatively) from Visit 1.

3/ At all visits and across groups, children and parents matched each other in lexical and syntactic production;

4/ Parents who produced longer MLUs during a given visit had children who produced more word types and tokens, and had longer MLUs, at the subsequent visit.

5/ When both child EL at Visit 1 and parent MLU were included in the model, both contributed significantly to future child language; however, EL accounted for a greater proportion of the variance.

6/ Finally, children’s speech significantly predicted parent speech at the next visit.

Taken together, these results draw more attention to the importance of child-based factors in the early language development of TD children, and to the importance of parental language factors in the early language development of children with ASD.

“Hearing me hearing you: Reciprocal effects between child and parent language in autism and typical development” is available at


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