Sign Language Echolalia in Deaf Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder Purpose We present the first study of echolalia in deaf, signing children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We investigate the nature and prevalence of sign echolalia in native-signing children with ASD, the relationship between sign echolalia and receptive language, and potential modality differences between sign and speech. Method ... Research Article
Research Article  |   June 10, 2017
Sign Language Echolalia in Deaf Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Aaron Shield
    Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, Miami University, Oxford, OH
  • Frances Cooley
    Department of Linguistics, University of Texas, Austin
  • Richard P. Meier
    Department of Linguistics, University of Texas, Austin
  • Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication.
    Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication. ×
  • Correspondence to Aaron Shield: shielda@miamioh.edu
  • Editor: Sean Redmond
    Editor: Sean Redmond×
  • Associate Editor: Joanne Volden
    Associate Editor: Joanne Volden×
Article Information
Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / Hearing Disorders / Audiologic / Aural Rehabilitation / Augmentative & Alternative Communication / Special Populations / Autism Spectrum / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   June 10, 2017
Sign Language Echolalia in Deaf Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, June 2017, Vol. 60, 1622-1634. doi:10.1044/2016_JSLHR-L-16-0292
History: Received July 17, 2016 , Revised December 2, 2016 , Accepted December 19, 2016
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, June 2017, Vol. 60, 1622-1634. doi:10.1044/2016_JSLHR-L-16-0292
History: Received July 17, 2016; Revised December 2, 2016; Accepted December 19, 2016

Purpose We present the first study of echolalia in deaf, signing children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We investigate the nature and prevalence of sign echolalia in native-signing children with ASD, the relationship between sign echolalia and receptive language, and potential modality differences between sign and speech.

Method Seventeen deaf children with ASD and 18 typically developing (TD) deaf children were video-recorded in a series of tasks. Data were coded for type of signs produced (spontaneous, elicited, echo, or nonecho repetition). Echoes were coded as pure or partial, and timing and reduplication of echoes were coded.

Results Seven of the 17 deaf children with ASD produced signed echoes, but none of the TD deaf children did. The echoic children had significantly lower receptive language scores than did both the nonechoic children with ASD and the TD children. Modality differences also were found in terms of the directionality, timing, and reduplication of echoes.

Conclusions Deaf children with ASD sometimes echo signs, just as hearing children with ASD sometimes echo words, and TD deaf children and those with ASD do so at similar stages of linguistic development, when comprehension is relatively low. The sign language modality might provide a powerful new framework for analyzing the purpose and function of echolalia in deaf children with ASD.

Acknowledgments
This research was begun while the first author was a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Boston University. Financial support was provided by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (Grant F32DC011219 to the first author) and the Autism Science Foundation (Grant REG 14-04 to the first author). We thank H. Tager-Flusberg for research support, T. Sampson for research assistance, C. Enns for use of the ASL Receptive Skills Test, and D. Mood and S. Butler Koestler for ADOS-2 administration.
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