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One of the most contentious issues in meeting the requirements of people with autism is how to handle differences in social skills. Individuals with autism spectrum disorders may struggle to understand social cues, advance and respond to social offers, and recognize the influence that is inherent in social interactions (ASD). This project intends to investigate how autism causes developmental problems, specifically language inadequacy in some ASD patients, and whether there are ways to prevent this. As a result, the study aims to answer these two essential questions. Various studies have been carried out that have provided useful insight into the question of language impairment in toddlers with ASD, and the following sections will analyze some of those studies.
Megan Davidson and Ellis Weismer (2017) carried out a study to inquire whether a difference in understanding and talking in early language development in ASD is clinically relevant. In their study, they examined the level at which a discrepant comprehension-production profile is typical of language impairment in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The first research question that was addressed was “the sensitivity and specificity of a comprehension weakness compared to production for 30-month-old LT and ASD toddlers” (Davidson & Weismer, 2017). They also tracked the developmental progression of the comprehension-production profiles in children with ASD at preset time points from a longitudinal investigation. Their study was important because the comparison of comprehension-production profiles in Late Talkers (LTs) and toddlers with ASD can assist with making the appropriate referrals as well as early differential diagnosis. They conducted their research through a longitudinal study for children with ASD and LT whereby the participants were drawn from two longitudinal projects examining early language development in children during the preschool period (Davidson & Weismer, 2017).
According to Davidson and Weismer (2017), a discrepant comprehension-production profile distinguished toddlers with ASD from late talkers without ASD in groups that were comparable on expressive language, age, and socioeconomic status. It implies that a group of children with ASD are more likely to display a discrepant comprehension-production profile than typically developing children or those with cognitive disabilities or language delay. The study is relevant to the current research since delayed language production is inherent in both children with ASD and LT. However, it is not always clear to clinically distinguish toddlers with fewer overt symptoms of ASD from young children with language delays only (Davidson & Weismer, 2017).
Haebig, Saffran, and Weismer (2017) carried out another study on statistical world learning involving children with autism spectrum disorder as well as those with specific language impairment. Word-learning techniques are poorly comprehended by children with specific language impairment (SLI) and children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) (Haebig, Saffran, & Weismer, 2017). Their study inquired the underlying mechanisms of word-learning, particularly, statistical word-learning and fast-mapping. The survey engaged school-going children with symptomatic and asymptomatic development. They carried the study through statistical learning assessed through a word segmentation task. However, fast-mapping was evaluated through an object-label association task. They also examined the ability of the children to map meaning onto newly segmented words in a task that incorporated exposure to an artificial language and fast-mapping task.
Haebig, Saffran, and Weismer (2017) determined that children with SLI performed poorly on the word segmentation and fast mapping tasks when compared to the typically developing and ASD groups; that did not show any discrepancy. However, when children with SLI were introduced to the artificial language and phonemes used in successive fast-mapping tasks, they effectively learned more words than in the isolated fast-mapping task (Haebig, Saffran, & Weismer, 2017). They also conducted follow up studies where they examined performance in children with ASD with and without language impairment. Children with ASD and language impairment demonstrated intact statistical learning abilities, but subtle weakness in fast-mapping abilities (Haebig, Saffran, & Weismer, 2017). Their study led to concurring that children with SLI have impairments in statistical learning as well as a deficiency in fast-mapping. Nonetheless, they can take advantage of additional phonological exposure to improve their word-learning performance. On the other hand, children with ASD show intact statistical learning, regardless of their language status. However, their fast-mapping skills differ according to broader language skills (Haebig, Saffran, & Weismer, 2017).
In another research by Kover, Edmunds, and Weismer (2016), they document a research report titled “Ages of Language Milestones as Predictors of Developmental Trajections in Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.” In their study, they concur that identifying early risk markers in young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is important in ensuring timely diagnosis and intervention (Kover, Edmunds, & Weismer, 2016). They carried the research with the hope of using it to extend previous findings about language learning milestones through a longitudinal design where ages of expressive language milestones (first words, first phrases) would serve as predictors of development trajectories for a heterogeneous sample of children with ASD (Kover, Edmunds, & Weismer, 2016).
They hypothesized that the age of language milestones could help to predict the levels of skills and rate of change for language, adaptive abilities and non-verbal cognition (Kover, Edmunds, & Weismer, 2016). In carrying out their research, 98 participants drawn from a larger longitudinal study on early development in ASD were involved with approximately four annual assessments. The diagnosis of ASD relied on the best estimate clinical diagnosis. They found that “the more words children produced at their first visit, the greater their outcomes at 45 months” (Kover, Edmunds, & Weismer, 2016). For the older children, the few words they knew at about two and half years, the greater the improvement in their adaptive behavior (Kover, Edmunds, & Weismer, 2016).
Manwaring, Mead, Swineford, and Thurm (2017) conducted a study on the use of gestures and early language development in autism spectrum disorder. Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have an impairment using gestures and other non-verbal communication cues (Manwaring et al., 2017). They researched to examine the relation between gestures, fine motor, and language in young children with ASD and compared with another group using multiple measures and methods. The research applied a structural equation modeling framework and 110 children with ASD, and a non-ASD comparison group of 87 participated. They utilized the model of gesture use and controlling for age that was identified to correlate strongly with coexisting expressive and receptive language (Manwaring et al., 2017). Thus, gesture use is impaired in children with ASD, and it has been discovered that gesture use is related to language development. However, the use of gestures requires the integration of many other developmental skills (Manwaring et al., 2017).
From the four studies reviewed, it is evidenced that language impairment is a characteristic in children with autism spectrum disorder. They are likely to display different levels of capabilities in understanding words and speaking them as seen in the study by Davidson and Weismer (2017). Expressive language is commonly used by this group and the capability to comprehend and produce words improves with age. Therefore, the toddlers with ASD are more likely to show discrepant comprehension-production profiles. Also, children with specific language impairment display poor performance in statistical learning as compared with those with ASD. However, given artificial language task enhanced with phonemes they can improve their performance. Gestures use in children with ASD is impaired and it is connected to language development. The use of gestures can enhance language development in ASD and non-ASD children since the correlation between gestures and concurrent language has similar impact in both ASD and non-ASD groups (Manwaring et al., 2017). However, it is unclear how common gestures may influence or be influenced by other forms of development.
The findings of all the four articles are consistent with each other. They build on each other. According to Davidson and Weismer (2017), children with ASD are highly susceptible to show a discrepant comprehension-production profile than those with cognitive disabilities or language delay. Haebig, Saffran, and Weismer (2017) determined that despite having intact statistical learning skills, children with ASD display different fast-mapping abilities due to the broader language skills. Kover, Edmunds, & Weismer (2016) find that young children with earlier first words tend to have higher levels of expressive language, and those with later first words made faster gains in adaptive skills. Manwaring et al., 2017 also found that non-verbal communication cues and gesture use are impaired in ASD. The underlying principle of using gestures relates to language in young children with ASD.
Despite the extensive claims made by the various studies, the authors failed to address some critical issues. For instance, the research by Davidson & Weismer (2017) provides us with little information about how the relation between language comprehension-production profiles changes over development in children with ASD. In Kover, Edmunds, & Weismer (2016), the authors failed to display the relationship between age of first phrases and later development, when controlling for age of first words. The age of first words only predicted trajectories of expressive language and adaptive skills rather than receptive language or nonverbal communication. Also, Manwaring et al., 2017 provides us with little knowledge about how common gestures may affect or be affected by various areas of development.
Autism leads to development impairments, specifically, language development impairments. Identifying these risks early is good for early diagnosis and intervention. Children with ASD are more likely to show a discrepant comprehension-production profile than those with cognitive disabilities or language delay. The use of gestures is impaired in ASD and it is connected with language development. Additional procedures for handling social shortfalls should be centered on skill acquisition tutoring for the person with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Davidson, M. M., & Weismer, S. E. (2017). A Discrepancy in Comprehension and Production in Early Language Development in ASD: Is it Clinically Relevant?. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 47(7), 2163-2175.
Haebig, E., Saffran, J. R., & Ellis Weismer, S. (2017). Statistical word learning in children with autism spectrum disorder and specific language impairment. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.
Kover, S. T., Edmunds, S. R., & Weismer, S. E. (2016). Brief report: Ages of language milestones as predictors of developmental trajectories in young children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 46(7), 2501-2507.
Manwaring, S. S., Mead, D. L., Swineford, L., & Thurm, A. (2017). Modelling gesture use and early language development in autism spectrum disorder. International journal of language & communication disorders.
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