Profiles and correlates of language and social communication differences among young autistic children

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Delays in early language development are characteristic of young autistic children, and one of the most recognizable first concerns that motivate parents to seek a diagnostic evaluation for their child. Although early language abilities are one of the strongest predictors of long-term outcomes, there is still much to be understood about the role of language impairment in the heterogeneous phenotypic presentation of autism. Using a person-centered, Latent Profile Analysis, we first aimed to identify distinct patterns of language and social communication ability in a clinic-based sample of 498 autistic children, ranging in age from 18 to 60 months (M = 33 mo, SD = 12 mo). Next, a multinomial logistic regression analysis was implemented to examine sociodemographic and child-based developmental differences among the identified language and social communication profiles. Three clinically meaningful profiles were identified from parent-rated and clinician-administered measures: Profile 1 (48% of the sample) “Relatively Low Language and Social Communication Abilities,” Profile 2 (34% of the sample) “Relatively Elevated Language and Social Communication Abilities,” and Profile 3 (18% of the sample) “Informant Discrepant Language and Relatively Elevated Social Communication Abilities.” Overall, young autistic children from the lowest-resource households exhibited the lowest language and social communication abilities, and the lowest non-verbal problem-solving and fine-motor skills, along with more features of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and atypical auditory processing. These findings highlight the need for effective community-based implementation strategies for young autistic children from low-resource households and underrepresented communities to improve access to individualized quality care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number936392
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
StatePublished - Sep 6 2022


  • autism
  • child-based factors
  • correlates
  • latent profile analysis
  • sociodemographic factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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