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J Autism Dev Disord. 2006 Nov;36(8):993-1005.

Early predictors of communication development in young children with autism spectrum disorder: joint attention, imitation, and toy play.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, UW Autism Center, CHDD, University of Washington 357920, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.


This study investigated the unique contributions of joint attention, imitation, and toy play to language ability and rate of development of communication skills in young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Sixty preschool-aged children with ASD were assessed using measures of joint attention, imitation, toy play, language, and communication ability. Two skills, initiating protodeclarative joint attention and immediate imitation, were most strongly associated with language ability at age 3-4 years, whereas toy play and deferred imitation were the best predictors of rate of communication development from age 4 to 6.5 years. The implications of these results for understanding the nature and course of language development in autism and for the development of targeted early interventions are discussed.

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