Behavioral and Physiological Responses to Child-Directed Speech as Predictors of Communication Outcomes in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders PurposeTo determine the extent to which behavioral and physiological responses during child-directed speech (CDS) correlate concurrently and predictively with communication skills in young children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).MethodTwenty-two boys with ASD (initial mean age: 35 months) participated in a longitudinal study. At entry, behavioral (i.e., percentage looking) and physiological ... Article
Article  |   August 01, 2010
Behavioral and Physiological Responses to Child-Directed Speech as Predictors of Communication Outcomes in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Linda R. Watson
    The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Grace T. Baranek
    The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Jane E. Roberts
    The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Fabian J. David
    The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Twyla Y. Perryman
    The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Contact author: Linda R. Watson, Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences, CB 7190, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7190. E-mail: lwatson@med.unc.edu.
  • Jane E. Roberts is now at the University of South Carolina; Fabian J. David is now at the University of Illinois at Chicago; Twyla Y. Perryman is now at Vanderbilt University.
    Jane E. Roberts is now at the University of South Carolina; Fabian J. David is now at the University of Illinois at Chicago; Twyla Y. Perryman is now at Vanderbilt University.×
Article Information
Development / Special Populations / Autism Spectrum / Research Issues, Methods & Evidence-Based Practice / Normal Language Processing / Language Disorders / Social Communication & Pragmatics Disorders / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Language
Article   |   August 01, 2010
Behavioral and Physiological Responses to Child-Directed Speech as Predictors of Communication Outcomes in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, August 2010, Vol. 53, 1052-1064. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2009/09-0096)
History: Received May 15, 2009 , Accepted December 1, 2009
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, August 2010, Vol. 53, 1052-1064. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2009/09-0096)
History: Received May 15, 2009; Accepted December 1, 2009
Web of Science® Times Cited: 16

PurposeTo determine the extent to which behavioral and physiological responses during child-directed speech (CDS) correlate concurrently and predictively with communication skills in young children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

MethodTwenty-two boys with ASD (initial mean age: 35 months) participated in a longitudinal study. At entry, behavioral (i.e., percentage looking) and physiological (i.e., vagal activity) measures were collected during the presentation of CDS stimuli. A battery of standardized communication measures was administered at entry and readministered 12 months later.

ResultsPercentage looking during CDS was strongly correlated with all entry and follow-up communication scores; vagal activity during CDS was moderately to strongly correlated with entry receptive language, follow-up expressive language, and social-communicative adaptive skills. After controlling for entry communication skills, vagal activity during CDS accounted for significant variance in follow-up communication skills, but percentage looking during CDS did not.

ConclusionsBehavioral and physiological responses to CDS are significantly related to concurrent and later communication skills of children with ASD. Furthermore, higher vagal activity during CDS predicts better communication outcomes 12 months later, after initial communication skills are accounted for. Further research is needed to better understand the physiological mechanisms underlying variable responses to CDS among children with ASD.

Acknowledgments
We gratefully acknowledge the support of National Alliance for Autism Research/Autism Speaks Grant 681 and National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Grant R01-HD42168. We thank the families who participated in this study. We also thank Irene Chan, Renee Clark, Sheila Lang, Kerry Callahan Mandulak, Megan McLester, Beth Schultz, and Doanne L. Ward-Williams, who assisted with recruitment, data collection, and coding; and Elizabeth R. Crais, who provided a valuable critique of a draft of this article.
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