Language outcomes in children with ASD


Examining the language development of a large community-based sample of kids who were typically-developing, had DLD, or had ASD, this study found that even though the three groups started with different average baseline scores on the CELF-P2 or CELF-4, verbal children with ASD followed a trajectory of language development similar to TD and DLD groups between four and seven years of age when tested again using the CELF-4. Most children with ASD maintained stable language development, with smaller percentages showing accelerated or slowing language development (sounds kind of like a normal growth pattern, doesn’t it?).  

Other findings included:

  • On average, the TD group had the highest language scores, the DLD group had the lowest, and the ASD group fell in between the two groups

  • Receptive language did not develop more slowly than expressive language in children with ASD (in contrast with other studies)

  • Neither social ability nor a diagnosis of ASD at 4 years predicted language ability at age 7, once the authors controlled for baseline language scores, IQ, and gender

  • For the cohort (all three groups combined):

    • Baseline receptive/expressive language scores, gender, nonverbal IQ, and socioeconomic disadvantage predicted receptive language ability at 7 years

    • Nonverbal IQ and receptive/expressive language scores at 4 years each predicted expressive language ability at 7 years

The authors caution that we should only apply the results of this study while predicting prognoses for verbal children with ASD with average intelligence who can complete language testing, and suggest further research on the language outcomes related to different levels of function in the ASD population.


Brignell, A., Williams, K., Jachno, K., Prior, M., Reilly, S., & Morgan, A. T. (2018). Patterns and predictors of language development from 4 to 7 years in verbal children with and without autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1007/s10803-018-3565-2