Undergraduate Research Journal


Compared to their typically developing (TD) peers, most children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) develop language skills later and at slower rates. Previous research has found that verbal input shapes the linguistic development of young TD children and children at risk for developmental delays. One area that is not well understood is whether certain aspects of communication (i.e., rate of verbal output, rate of gestures) of the caretaker play a role in how language is developed in children with ASD over time. The purpose of this study is to explore the linguistic behavior of the caretaker (i.e., the mother) when the child with ASD is around 2.5 years of age and through this longitudinal investigation, re-examine the caretakers’ linguistic behaviors each year after that, for three straight years. Ten pairs of mother-child social interactions were observed for this study as mothers engaged with their child during a 15-minute play session. Each mother-child pair has four data points, when the child was at 2.5, 3.5, 4.5, and 5.5 years of age. Parents in each session were instructed to “play with your child as you normally would at home.” Trends in communication of the mother showed a decrease in the frequency of nonverbal gestures from the first to the fourth visit while the rate of speech increased by the fourth visit. These trends suggest that caregivers are more aware of the type of communication their child with ASD needs as that child ages. This information is useful in building a stronger communicative profile of the social interactions of families with children with ASD.



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