Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 37, Issue 7, pp 1323–1336 | Cite as

Communicative Competence in Parents of Children with Autism and Parents of Children with Specific Language Impairment

  • Tilla F. RuserEmail author
  • Deborah Arin
  • Michael Dowd
  • Sara Putnam
  • Brian Winklosky
  • Beth Rosen-Sheidley
  • Joseph Piven
  • Bruce Tomblin
  • Helen Tager-Flusberg
  • Susan Folstein
Original Paper


While the primary language deficit in autism has been thought to be pragmatic, and in specific language impairment (SLI) structural, recent research suggests phenomenological and possibly genetic overlap between the two syndromes. To compare communicative competence in parents of children with autism, SLI, and down syndrome (DS), we used a modified pragmatic rating scale (PRS-M). Videotapes of conversational interviews with 47 autism, 47 SLI, and 21 DS parents were scored blind to group membership. Autism and SLI parents had significantly lower communication abilities than DS parents. Fifteen percent of the autism and SLI parents showed severe deficits. Our results suggest that impaired communication is part of the broader autism phenotype and a broader SLI phenotype, especially among male family members.


Autism Specific language impairment Communication Pragmatics Family study 



This research was supported by grant NS RO1 38668 to Dr. Folstein and grant P01/U19 DC 03610, which is part of the NICHD/NIDCD Collaborative Programs of Excellence in Autism, to Dr. Tager-Flusberg. We offer special thanks to all the families who participated in this study.

Supplementary material


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tilla F. Ruser
    • 1
    Email author
  • Deborah Arin
    • 1
  • Michael Dowd
    • 1
  • Sara Putnam
    • 1
  • Brian Winklosky
    • 1
  • Beth Rosen-Sheidley
    • 1
  • Joseph Piven
    • 2
  • Bruce Tomblin
    • 3
  • Helen Tager-Flusberg
    • 4
  • Susan Folstein
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryTufts-New England Medical CenterBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of MedicineChapel HillUSA
  3. 3.Department of Speech PathologyUniversity of IowaIowaUSA
  4. 4.Department of Anatomy and NeurobiologyBoston University School of MedicineBostonUSA

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