A longitudinal study of joint attention and language development in autistic children

J Autism Dev Disord. 1990 Mar;20(1):115-28. doi: 10.1007/BF02206861.


This study was designed to examine the degree to which individual differences in gestural joint attention skills predicted language development among autistic children. A group of 15 autistic children (mean CA = 45 months) were matched with one group of mentally retarded (MR) children on mental age and another group of MR children on language age. These groups were administered the Early Social-Communication Scales. The latter provided measures of gestural requesting, joint attention, and social behaviors. The results indicated that, even when controlling for language level, mental age, or IQ, autistic children displayed deficits in gestural joint attention skills on two testing sessions that were 13 months apart. Furthermore, the measure of gestural nonverbal joint attention was a significant predictor of language development in the autistic sample. Other variables, including initial language level and IQ were not significant predictors of language development in this sample.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Attention*
  • Autistic Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Autistic Disorder / psychology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Communication
  • Gestures
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Intellectual Disability / diagnosis
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Language Development Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Language Development Disorders / psychology
  • Language Tests
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Nonverbal Communication