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J Autism Dev Disord. 2013 Feb;43(2):253-64. doi: 10.1007/s10803-012-1558-0.

Age of first words predicts cognitive ability and adaptive skills in children with ASD.

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Department of Psychology, University of Connecticut, 406 Babbidge Road, U-1020, Storrs, CT 06269, USA.


Acquiring useful language by age 5 has been identified as a strong predictor of positive outcomes in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). This study examined the relationship between age of language acquisition and later functioning in children with ASD (n = 119). First word acquisition at a range of ages was probed for its relationship to cognitive ability and adaptive behaviors at 52 months. Results indicated that although producing first words predicted better outcome at every age examined, producing first words by 24 months was a particularly strong predictor of better outcomes. This finding suggests that the historic criterion for positive prognosis (i.e., "useful language by age 5") can be updated to a more specific criterion with an earlier developmental time point.

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