Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 44, Issue 1, pp 75–89 | Cite as

Longitudinal Analyses of Expressive Language Development Reveal Two Distinct Language Profiles Among Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • Saime Tek
  • Laura Mesite
  • Deborah Fein
  • Letitia Naigles
Original Paper


Although children with Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) show significant variation in language skills, research on what type(s) of language profiles they demonstrate has been limited. Using growth-curve analyses, we investigated how different groups of young children with ASD show increases in the size of their lexicon, morpho-syntactic production as measured by Brown’s 14 grammatical morphemes, and wh-question complexity, compared to TD children, across six time points. Children with ASD who had higher verbal skills were comparable to TD children on most language measures, whereas the children with ASD who had low verbal skills had flatter trajectories in most language measures. Thus, two distinct language profiles emerged for children with ASD.


Autism spectrum disorders Language acquisition Morphology and syntax 



Autism spectrum disorders


ASD-high verbal


ASD-low verbal


Typically developing


Specific language impairment


Diagnostic and statistical manual IV, text revision


Autism diagnostic observation schedule


MacArthur communicative development inventory


Mullen scales of early learning


Individual growth curves



This research was funded by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders: NIHDCD, R01 2DC007428 to the principal investigator, by a Student Undergraduate Research Fund (SURF) at our institute to the second author of this paper, and by a Doctoral Dissertation fellowship to the first author of the paper. We gratefully acknowledge our lab managers in data collection and the undergraduates in our lab in transcribing, as well as the children and families who participated in the study. We appreciate the helpful commentary received from many colleagues.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Saime Tek
    • 1
  • Laura Mesite
    • 2
  • Deborah Fein
    • 3
  • Letitia Naigles
    • 3
  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentBilkent UniversityAnkaraTurkey
  2. 2.Brown UniversityProvidenceUSA
  3. 3.University of ConnecticutStorrsUSA

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