The broader language phenotype of autism: a comparison with specific language impairment

J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2007 Aug;48(8):822-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2007.01765.x.


Background: Some individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) experience linguistic difficulties similar to those found in individuals with specific language impairment (SLI). Whether these behaviours are indicative of a common underlying genetic cause or a superficial similarity is unclear.

Methods: Standardised language assessments were administered to three participant groups: parents of children with ASD (Par-A), parents of children with specific language/literacy impairment (Par-L) and parents of typically developing children (Par-T) (n = 30, in each group). Additionally, the Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ) was used to assess autism-like tendencies, in particular, social language use.

Results: The Par-A group performed better than the Par-L group (and identical to the Par-T group) on all language tests. Conversely, the Par-A group was characterised by higher levels of pragmatic difficulties than the other two groups, as measured by the communication subscale of the AQ.

Conclusions: No evidence was found for a shared phenotype in parents of children with ASD and SLI. A model is presented describing the relation between SLI and ASD.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Autistic Disorder / complications*
  • Autistic Disorder / genetics
  • Communication
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / psychology
  • Humans
  • Language Disorders / complications*
  • Language Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Language Disorders / genetics
  • Language*
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term
  • Middle Aged
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Phonetics
  • Psychometrics / methods
  • Self Disclosure
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Behavior