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Contribution to a Book

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Innovative investigations of language in autism spectrum disorder.


L. R. Naigles



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In this chapter, we review evidence on parental input to children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), moving from quantitative measures of linguistic features to qualitative measures of interaction. First, we examine lexical and syntactic features (e.g., number of utterances, mean length of utterance [MLU]) in the input provided to children with ASD compared with TD [typically developing] children matched on language level. Second, we turn to work on parental responsiveness, or the tendency to provide verbal or gestural input in sync with the child’s focus of attention, and how this compares across dyads including a child with ASD or a typically developing (TD) child. We also review findings on specific functions of parental responsive utterances and evaluate the impact these input features have on later child language in ASD. Finally, to provide a complete picture of the current state of the nurture side of the puzzle, we review findings on multiple other aspects and contexts of parental input where preliminary data is available. We conclude with a discussion of the pattern of striking similarities observed between groups for many of these features, what the differences point to, and how these findings inform our understanding of the nurture side of language development in ASD.


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©American Psychological Association, 2016. This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the authoritative document published in the APA journal. Please do not copy or cite without author's permission. The final article is available, upon publication, at:


Child and Adolescent Development