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J Speech Lang Hear Res. 2016 Feb;59(1):143-54. doi: 10.1044/2015_JSLHR-L-15-0146.

Risk Factors Associated With Language in Autism Spectrum Disorder: Clues to Underlying Mechanisms.



Identifying risk factors associated with neurodevelopmental disorders is an important line of research, as it will lead to earlier identification of children who could benefit from interventions that support optimal developmental outcomes. The primary goal of this review was to summarize research on risk factors associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).


The review focused on studies of infants who have older siblings with ASD, with particular emphasis on risk factors associated with language impairment that affects the majority of children with ASD. Findings from this body of work were compared to the literature on specific language impairment.


A wide range of risk factors has been found for ASD, including demographic (e.g., male, family history), behavioral (e.g., gesture, motor) and neural risk markers (e.g., atypical lateralization for speech and reduced functional connectivity). Environmental factors, such as caregiver interaction, have not been found to predict language outcomes. Many of the risk markers for ASD are also found in studies of risk for specific language impairment, including demographic, behavioral, and neural factors.


There are significant gaps in the literature and limitations in the current research that preclude direct cross-syndrome comparisons. Future research directions are outlined that could address these limitations.

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