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J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2011 May;52(5):588-98. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2010.02332.x. Epub 2010 Oct 11.

Out of the mouths of babes: vocal production in infant siblings of children with ASD.

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  • 1Yale Child Study Center, USA Southern Connecticut State University, USA.



Younger siblings of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are at higher risk for acquiring these disorders than the general population. Language development is usually delayed in children with ASD. The present study examines the development of pre-speech vocal behavior in infants at risk for ASD due to the presence of an older sibling with the disorder.


Infants at high risk (HR) for ASD and those at low risk, without a diagnosed sibling (LR), were seen at 6, 9, and 12 months as part of a larger prospective study of risk for ASD in infant siblings. Standard clinical assessments were administered, and vocalization samples were collected during play with mother and a standard set of toys. Infant vocal behavior was recorded and analyzed for consonant inventory, presence of canonical syllables, and of non-speech vocalizations, in a cross-sectional design. Children were seen again at 24 months for provisional diagnosis.


Differences were seen between risk groups for certain vocal behaviors. Differences in vocal production in the first year of life were associated with outcomes in terms of autistic symptomotology in the second year.


Early vocal behavior is a sensitive indicator of heightened risk for autistic symptoms in infants with a family history of ASD.

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