Language Disorders: Autism and Other Pervasive Developmental Disorders

Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Boston University School of Medicine, 715 Albany Street, L-814, Boston, MA 02118, USA.
Pediatric Clinics of North America (Impact Factor: 2.12). 07/2007; 54(3):469-81, vi. DOI: 10.1016/j.pcl.2007.02.011
Source: PubMed


This article summarizes current knowledge about language and communication impairments in children who have autism spectrum disorders. It reviews the language profiles that may be observed during the toddler and preschool years and in school-aged children and discusses receptive and expressive language skills that may be quite variable across the spectrum and the universal impairments in pragmatic aspects of language that are among the defining characteristics of the disorder. It concludes with clinical recommendations for pediatric screening of autism spectrum disorders and for continued monitoring of language difficulties in older children for whom interventions may be critical for enhancing effective communication in everyday life.

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Available from: Helen Tager-Flusberg
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    • "Relative advantages in social competence (i.e., the degree to which a child demonstrates age-appropriate levels of social interest, social-cognitive skills and effective prosocial behavior) may lead to more proficient language learning either directly (e.g., pointing at and naming objects) or indirectly (e.g., overhearing conversa- tions;Charman, 2003;Dawson et al., 1998;Mundy, Sigman, & Kasari, 1990;Parish-Morris et al., 2007). Enhanced language abilities, meanwhile, have been associated with higher scores on theory of mind tasks (Bennett et al., 2013;Hale & Tager-Flusberg, 2003) and more advanced play skills (Tager-Flusberg & Caronna, 2007), and may benefit social development as more linguistically competent children with ASD use their verbal skills to reason through social scenarios (Fisher, Happe, & Dunn, 2005). Thus, different skill pathways may interact and build off each other within the context of each child's development and experience of his/her environmental contexts in a reciprocal pattern. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Differences in how developmental pathways interact dynamically in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) likely contribute in important ways to phenotypic heterogeneity. This study aimed to model longitudinal reciprocal associations between social competence (SOC) and language (LANG) pathways in young children with ASD. Methods: Data were obtained from 365 participants aged 2-4 years who had recently been diagnosed with an ASD and who were followed over three time points: baseline (time of diagnosis), 6- and 12 months later. Using structural equation modeling, a cross-lagged reciprocal effects model was developed that incorporated auto-regressive (stability) paths for SOC (using the Socialization subscale of the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales-2) and LANG (using the Preschool Language Scale-4 Auditory Comprehension subscale). Cross-domain associations included within-time correlations and lagged associations. Results: SOC and LANG were highly stable over 12 months. Small reciprocal cross-lagged associations were found across most time points and within-time correlations decreased over time. There were no differences in strength of cross-lagged associations between SOC-LANG and LANG-SOC across time points. Few differences were found between subgroups of children with ASD with and without cognitive impairment. Conclusions: Longitudinal reciprocal cross-domain associations between social competence and language were small in this sample of young children with ASD. Instead, a pattern emerged to suggest that the two domains were strongly associated around time of diagnosis in preschoolers with ASD, and then appeared to become more independent over the ensuing 12 months.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2014 · Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
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    • "These follow-up procedures were carried out for the following reasons: (1) to rule out the possibility that individuals who have difficulty detecting metaphors have lower verbal IQ compared to the general population; (2) to ensure that ''metaphor blind'' individuals on average do not have lower verbal IQ than control participants from the UC San Diego student population; (3) finally, by having control participants with the lowest verbal IQs complete the metaphorical and literal sentences and score within a normal statistical range, this would provide further evidence that ''metaphor blindness'' is not a phenomenon pertaining simply to low verbal IQ and task difficulty. Given that the reduced ability to detect metaphors has been found in clinical populations such as patients with lesions in the left IPL [2], and individuals with schizophrenia [12], and that language impairment is associated with Pervasive Developmental Disorders [13], it was important to obtain detailed case histories of our ''metaphor blind'' participants. As mentioned, none of our 8 participants had any neurological or psychiatric history (except for one individual with a current GAD diagnosis), including language impairment, dyslexia, or signs of late language onset. "
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    ABSTRACT: Previous research from our group suggests that patients with lesions in the left inferior parietal lobule (IPL)-which is concerned with abstract numerical cognition and cross-modal association (which is consistent with its strategic location at the crossroads between the temporal, parietal and occipital lobes) have difficulty understanding proverbs and metaphors (Ramachandran and Hubbard, 2001). In the current pilot investigation, we report "metaphor blindness" in a college student population; that is, either the complete inability or difficulty for otherwise intellectually non-challenged individuals to comprehend metaphors of language. Participants (N=205) read 12 metaphorical ("The detective jumped at the clue") and 12 literal ("The accident was a fall") sentences and had to decide whether the sentences conveyed a metaphorical or literal meaning. The mean accuracy for these metaphorical sentences was 11.0 (SD=2.3; RNG=0-12); the mean accuracy for literal sentences was 7.2 (SD=1.8; RNG=2-10). We found that 5% of participants (11/205) were unable or had difficulty understanding metaphors (i.e., were statistical outliers), while their score for literal sentences felt within a normal statistical range M=8.3 (SD=2.3; RNG=5-10). Follow-up control procedures were conducted in order to help ascertain that the results were not due to low verbal IQ and task difficulty. Likewise, none of the "metaphor blind" participants reported any psychiatric or neurological histories that would impair language comprehension, including strokes, brain injuries, language problems dyslexia, and signs of late language onset. The results are very preliminary and future studies are needed to confirm these findings. We suggest that brain modules may be specialized even for subtle functions like metaphor and their formation in embryogenesis may be controlled by small handfuls of genes whose expression can go awry-as in "metaphor blindness".
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2014 · Medical Hypotheses
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    • "Core symptoms of autism generally represent an aberrant social development, possibly of congenital origin (Grossman et al. 1997). Evaluation of autistic hallmarks seems to be complicated since a high percentage of patients suffers from mental retardation and different levels of communicative impairment (Baron-Cohen et al. 1999; Lord and Volkmar 2002), which may vary from complete lack of functional language to diverse weakness in verbally mediated tasks, although sometimes language skills can be normal (Tager-Flusberg and Joseph 2003; Bennett et al. 2007; Tager-Flusberg and Caronna 2007). Likewise, it is rarely diagnosed before 3 years of age due to the fact that early indicators of autism, such as abnormal social interaction and unusual playing behavior, are not detectable at ages younger than 14 months (Landa et al. 2007). "
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    ABSTRACT: Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction and communication accompanied with repetitive behavioral patterns and unusual stereotyped interests. Autism is considered a highly heterogeneous disorder with diverse putative causes and associated factors giving rise to variable ranges of symptomatology. Incidence seems to be increasing with time, while the underlying pathophysiological mechanisms remain virtually uncharacterized (or unknown). By systematic review of the literature and a systems biology approach, our aims were to examine the multifactorial nature of autism with its broad range of severity, to ascertain the predominant biological processes, cellular components, and molecular functions integral to the disorder, and finally, to elucidate the most central contributions (genetic and/or environmental) in silico. With this goal, we developed an integrative network model for gene-environment interactions (GENVI model) where calcium (Ca2+) was shown to be its most relevant node. Moreover, considering the present data from our systems biology approach together with the results from the differential gene expression analysis of cerebellar samples from autistic patients, we believe that RAC1, in particular, and the RHO family of GTPases, in general, could play a critical role in the neuropathological events associated with autism.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2013 · Neuromolecular medicine
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