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Language and Speech in Autism

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Annual Review of Linguistics

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      Abstract

      Autism is a developmental disability characterized by atypical social interaction, interests or body movements, and communication. Our review examines the empirical status of three communication phenomena believed to be unique to autism: pronoun reversal (using the pronoun you when the pronoun I is intended, and vice versa), echolalia (repeating what someone has said), and a reduced or even reversed production-comprehension lag (a reduction or reversal of the well-established finding that speakers produce less sophisticated language than they can comprehend). Each of these three phenomena has been claimed to be unique to autism; therefore, each has been proposed to be diagnostic of autism, and each has been interpreted in autism-centric ways (psychoanalytic interpretations of pronoun reversal, behaviorist interpretations of echolalia, and clinical lore about the production-comprehension lag). However, as our review demonstrates, none of these three phenomena is in fact unique to autism; none can or should serve as diagnostic of autism, and all call into question unwarranted assumptions about autistic persons and their language development and use.

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      Most cited references 53

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      Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised: A revised version of a diagnostic interview for caregivers of individuals with possible pervasive developmental disorders

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        Autism diagnostic interview: a standardized investigator-based instrument.

        The development of a new standardized investigator-based interview for use in the differential diagnosis of pervasive developmental disorders is described, together with a diagnostic algorithm (using ICD-10 criteria) based on its use. Good interrater reliability for algorithm items was shown between four raters, two in Canada and two in the UK, who rated 32 videotaped interviews. The items also significantly discriminated between 16 autistic and 16 nonautistic mentally handicapped subjects. The algorithm based on ICD-10 identified all 16 autistic individuals and none of the 16 nonautistic subjects.
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          An Investigation of Language Impairment in Autism: Implications for Genetic Subgroups.

          Autism involves primary impairments in both language and communication, yet in recent years the main focus of research has been on the communicative deficits that define the population. The study reported in this paper investigated language functioning in a group of 89 children diagnosed with autism using the ADI-R, and meeting DSM-IV criteria. The children, who were between 4- and 14- years-old were administered a battery of standardized language tests tapping phonological, lexical, and higher-order language abilities. The main findings were that among the children with autism there was significant heterogeneity in their language skills, although across all the children, articulation skills were spared. Different subgroups of children with autism were identified on the basis on their performance on the language measures. Some children with autism have normal language skills; for other children, their language skills are significantly below age expectations. The profile of performance across the standardized measures for the language-impaired children with autism was similar to the profile that defines the disorder specific language impairment (or SLI). The implications of this language impaired subgroup in autism for understanding the genetics and definition of both autism and SLI are discussed.
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            Author and article information

            Journal
            Annual Review of Linguistics
            Annu. Rev. Linguist.
            Annual Reviews
            2333-9683
            2333-9691
            January 14 2016
            January 14 2016
            : 2
            : 1
            : 413-425
            10.1146/annurev-linguistics-030514-124824
            © 2016

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