Early communication development and intervention for children with autism

Ment Retard Dev Disabil Res Rev. 2007;13(1):16-25. doi: 10.1002/mrdd.20134.


Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder defined by impairments in social and communication development, accompanied by stereotyped patterns of behavior and interest. The focus of this paper is on the early development of communication in autism, and early intervention for impairments in communication associated with this disorder. An overview of components of communication is provided. Communication characteristics that are diagnostic of autism are summarized, with consideration of the overlap between social and communication impairment, particularly for children with autism functioning at the prelinguistic level. Early communication development and predictors of communication functioning in autism are examined, based on a review of prospective and retrospective studies. The focus of the discussion then turns to intervention. Consideration is given to the rationale for beginning intervention as early in life as possible for children with autism. Implications of motor, imitation, and play deficits for communication-based intervention are examined. Finally, issues related to the design and delivery of intervention for young children with autism are presented, along with a review of the major early intervention approaches for autism.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Child
  • Communication Disorders / diagnosis
  • Communication Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Communication Disorders / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Language Development Disorders / diagnosis
  • Language Development Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Language Development Disorders / therapy*
  • Language Therapy / methods*
  • Play and Playthings
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Verbal Learning