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

Rachel Reetzke, Vini Singh, Ji Su Hong, Calliope B. Holingue, Luther G. Kalb, Natasha N. Ludwig, Deepa Menon, Danika L. Pfeiffer, Rebecca J. Landa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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

  • Psychology(all)


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