Original paper

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp 253-264

First online:

Age of First Words Predicts Cognitive Ability and Adaptive Skills in Children with ASD

  • Jessica MayoAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Connecticut Email author 
  • , Colby ChlebowskiAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Connecticut
  • , Deborah A. FeinAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Connecticut
  • , Inge-Marie EigstiAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Connecticut

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Acquiring useful language by age 5 has been identified as a strong predictor of positive outcomes in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). This study examined the relationship between age of language acquisition and later functioning in children with ASD (n = 119). First word acquisition at a range of ages was probed for its relationship to cognitive ability and adaptive behaviors at 52 months. Results indicated that although producing first words predicted better outcome at every age examined, producing first words by 24 months was a particularly strong predictor of better outcomes. This finding suggests that the historic criterion for positive prognosis (i.e., “useful language by age 5”) can be updated to a more specific criterion with an earlier developmental time point.


Autism Autism spectrum disorders Language acquisition Language delay Developmental milestones Prognosis