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Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2012 May;21(5):267-76. doi: 10.1007/s00787-012-0259-8. Epub 2012 Mar 3.

Social use of language in children with reactive attachment disorder and autism spectrum disorders.

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Section of Psychological Medicine, Caledonia House, Royal Hospital for Sick Children, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK.


Children with a diagnosis of reactive attachment disorder (RAD) appear to show difficulties in social understanding. We aimed to compare the pragmatic language functioning of children with (RAD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Assessments were made in three groups of children aged 5-8 years, with verbal IQ estimates in the normal range: 35 with a RAD diagnosis, 52 with an ASD diagnosis and 39 with typical development. The Children's Communication Checklist (CCC) was used to compare their pragmatic language skills, and ADI-R algorithms were used to compare autistic symptomatology, according to parent report. According to the CCC, the RAD group demonstrated significant problems in their use of context, rapport and social relationships with a degree of severity equivalent to children in the ASD comparison group. More than 60% of the group with RAD met ADI-R clinical criteria on the Use of Language and Other Social Communication Skills subscale, 46% on the Reciprocal Social Interaction subscale, and 20% had significant repetitive and stereotyped behaviours. Children with RAD appear to be at least as impaired as children with ASD in certain domains of social relatedness, particularly in their pragmatic language skills.

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