Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 41, Issue 12, pp 1694–1704 | Cite as

Diagnostic Differentiation of Autism Spectrum Disorders and Pragmatic Language Impairment

  • Lisa M. ReisingerEmail author
  • Kim M. Cornish
  • Éric Fombonne
Original Paper


The present study examined diagnostic differentiation between school-aged children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and children with pragmatic language impairment (PLI). Standardized diagnostic instruments were used to investigate the relationship between severity of ‘autism triad’ impairments and group membership. The Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule was administered to 19 children with PLI and 22 children with ASD. Parents completed the Social Communication Questionnaire. There was a significant difference between diagnostic groups in the level of the severity of behaviors represented by the Communication and Reciprocal Social Interaction sub-domains on both diagnostic measures. Currently displayed Repetitive and Restricted Behaviors and Interests were not found to be useful for differentiating between groups. The similarities found between groups have important implications for intervention.


Autism spectrum disorders Pragmatic language impairment Broad phenotype Diagnostic differentiation Diagnostic measures Behavior 



This manuscript was completed in partial fulfillment of a Doctor of Philosophy degree at the University of McGill by L.M.R who was supported by a Fonds québécois de la recherche sur la société et la culture scholarship award (2007–2009) and the Saul Levenson Scholarship (Miriam Foundation) in 2006, and also from grants from the Canada Research Program awarded to Professors Cornish and Fombonne. We extend our thanks to the staff of the ASD Program of the Montreal Children’s Hospital, participating schools of the English Montreal School Board, and to Dr. Caroline Zanni for the use of her clinic. We gratefully acknowledge Susan Waite of the English Montreal School Board, who generously gave her time in the collection of data for this study. Special thanks to the families who took their time to be a part of this study and who made this research possible.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisa M. Reisinger
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Kim M. Cornish
    • 1
    • 3
  • Éric Fombonne
    • 2
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Educational and Counselling PsychologyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Autism Spectrum Disorders ProgramMontreal Children’s HospitalMontrealCanada
  3. 3.Centre for Developmental Psychiatry and Psychology, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health SciencesMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  4. 4.Department of PsychiatryMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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