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Brief Report: “Um” Fillers Distinguish Children With and Without ASD


Two laboratories have reported that children with ASD are less likely than their typical peers to fill pauses with um but their use of uh is unaffected (Irvine et al., J Autism Dev Disord 46(3):1061–1070, 2016; Gorman et al., Autism Res 9(8):854–865, 2016). In this brief report, we replicated this finding by comparing the discourse of 7-to-15-year-olds with ASD (N = 31) to that of their typically developing same-age peers (N = 32). The robustness of this easily documented difference in discourse suggests a potentially useful clinical marker of ASD.

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We thank the children for their participation and Nichole Eden and Jacob Oleson for their assistance.


This study was funded by NIH-NIDCD 2 R01 DC003698 together with an augmentation award from Autism Speaks.

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KKM was responsible for conceptualization of the study, oversight of data collection, statistical analysis of the data, and writing the manuscript. RRH was responsible for coding the data and assisting with interpretation of the results.

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Correspondence to Karla K. McGregor.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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McGregor, K.K., Hadden, R.R. Brief Report: “Um” Fillers Distinguish Children With and Without ASD. J Autism Dev Disord 50, 1816–1821 (2020).

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  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Fillers
  • Disfluency
  • Discourse