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The speech of young children with autism (Broome et al., 2021)

journal contribution
posted on 2021-11-03, 21:20 authored by Kate Broome, Patricia McCabe, Kimberley Docking, Maree Doble, Bronwyn Carrigg
Purpose: This study aimed to provide detailed descriptive information about the speech of a heterogeneous cohort of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and to explore whether subgroups exist based on this detailed speech data. High rates of delayed and disordered speech in both low-verbal and high-functioning children with ASD have been reported. There is limited information regarding the speech abilities of young children across a range of functional levels.
Method: Participants were 23 children aged 2;0–6;11 (years;months) with a diagnosis of ASD. Comprehensive speech and language assessments were administered. Independent and relational speech analyses were conducted from single-word naming tasks and spontaneous speech samples. Hierarchical clustering based on language, nonverbal communication, and spontaneous speech descriptive data was completed.
Results: Independent and relational speech analyses are reported. These variables are used in the cluster analyses, which identified three distinct subgroups: (a) children with high language and high speech ability (n = 10), (b) children with low expressive language and low speech ability but higher receptive language and use of gestures (n = 3), and (c) children with low language and low speech development (n = 10).
Conclusions: This is the first study to provide detailed descriptive speech data of a heterogeneous cohort of children with ASD and use this information to statistically explore potential subgroups. Clustering suggests a small number of children present with low levels of speech and expressive language in the presence of better receptive language and gestures. This communication profile warrants further exploration. Replicating these findings with a larger cohort of children is needed.

Supplemental Material S1. Scatterplots of descriptive data. Receptive vocabulary = raw score on CDI; Expressive vocabulary = raw score on CDI; Gestures = raw score on CDI; Consonants = number of consonants in phoneme repertoire; PCC = percentage consonants correct in spontaneous speech sample. A = Cluster A: High Receptive, High Expressive, High Gestures, High Speech; B = Cluster B: High Receptive, Low Expressive, High Gestures, Low Speech; C = Cluster C: Low Receptive, Low Expressive, Low Gestures, Low Speech.

Supplemental Material S2. Dunn’s test results.

Broome, K., McCabe, P., Docking, K., Doble, M., & Carrigg, B. (2021). Speech abilities in a heterogeneous group of children with autism. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. Advance online publication.