Relations between language, non-verbal cognition, and conceptualization in non- or minimally verbal individuals with ASD across the lifespan by Dominika Slušná

CONCLUSIONS: These patterns inform theories of nvASD by revealing an impairment that is not conceptualizable as one of expressive language only, sharply limits learning opportunities across the lifespan, and cannot be compensated for by nonverbal cognition.

Autism Dev Lang Impair. 2021 Nov 3;6:23969415211053264. doi: 10.1177/23969415211053264. eCollection 2021 Jan-Dec.

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND & AIMS: Individuals with non- or minimally verbal autism (nvASD) are primarily characterized by a severe speech production deficit, with speech limited to no or only a few words by school age. Significant unclarity remains over variability in language profiles across the lifespan, the nature of the language impairment seen, and (dis-) associations between linguistic and nonverbal cognitive measures.

METHODS: To address these questions, we recruited both a school-age and an adult group with nvASD (total N = 49) and investigated relations between expressive and receptive language, and between these and nonverbal intelligence quotient (NVIQ) and sense-making capacities (the ComFor test).

RESULTS: Results revealed limited variation across this sample in receptive language, which in turn predicted expressive language levels. Importantly, an upward trend in verbal mental age (VMA) across increasing chronological age was seen in the youngsters (only). A radical dissociation between NVIQ and both expressive and receptive language transpired as well, and a subset of individuals with normal NVIQ were comparable in terms of any other cognitive aspect. Sense-making reached symbolic levels in 62.2% of the sample and loaded on both verbal and nonverbal factors.

CONCLUSIONS: These patterns inform theories of nvASD by revealing an impairment that is not conceptualizable as one of expressive language only, sharply limits learning opportunities across the lifespan, and cannot be compensated for by nonverbal cognition.

IMPLICATIONS: These findings stress the need to seize developmental opportunities that may disappear when youngsters turn into adults, via therapies that specifically target language as a central cognitive system comprising both production and comprehension.

PMID:36440372 | PMC:PMC9685121 | DOI:10.1177/23969415211053264

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