Journal of Child Language



Note

Measuring early language development in preschool children with autism spectrum disorder using the MacArthur Communicative Development Inventory (Infant Form)


TONY CHARMAN a1c1, AURIOL DREW a2, CLAIRE BAIRD a3 and GILLIAN BAIRD a2
a1 Behavioural & Brain Sciences Unit, Institute of Child Health, University College, London
a2 Newcomen Centre, Guy's Hospital, London
a3 Bristol University Medical School

Abstract

Parent report data on early language development measured using the MacArthur Communicative Development Inventory (CDI–Infant Form) was collected on 134 preschool children with autism spectrum disorder. The pattern of development of understanding of phrases, word comprehension and expression, and production of gestures, was compared to the typical pattern. In common with typical development there was considerable variability in language acquisition, although for the group as a whole this was significantly delayed compared to the normal course. In addition, atypical patterns were identified in the emergence of language skills in the sample. Comprehension of words was delayed in comparison to word production, and production of early gestures (involving sharing reference) was delayed relative to production of later gestures (involving use of objects). However, other aspects of language development were similar to that found in typically developing infants, including word comprehension being in advance of word production in absolute terms, gesture production acting as a ‘bridge’ between word comprehension and word production and the broad pattern of acquisition across word categories and word forms. The implications for assessment and intervention with preschool children with autism spectrum disorder are discussed.

(Received June 11 2001)
(Revised July 16 2002)


Correspondence:
c1 Address for correspondence: Dr Tony Charman, Behavioural & Brain Sciences Unit, Institute of Child Health, 30 Guilford Street, London WC1N 1EH, UK. e-mail: t.charman@ich.ucl.ac.uk


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