Nonverbal communication in two- and three-year-old children with autism

J Autism Dev Disord. 1997 Dec;27(6):677-96. doi: 10.1023/a:1025854816091.


The forms, functions, and complexity of nonverbal communication used by very young children with autism were investigated. Fourteen children with autism were matched to 14 children with developmental delays and/or language impairments on the basis of CA, MA, and expressive vocabulary. Subjects participated in a structured communication assessment consisting of 16 situations designed to elicit requesting or commenting behavior. Children with autism requested more often and commented less often than controls. Autistic children were less likely to point, show objects, or use eye gaze to communicate, but were more likely to directly manipulate the examiner's hand. The autistic group also used less complex combinations of behaviors to communicate. Implications for early identification and intervention are discussed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Attention
  • Autistic Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Autistic Disorder / psychology
  • Autistic Disorder / therapy
  • Child Development
  • Child, Preschool
  • Developmental Disabilities / diagnosis
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Early Intervention, Educational
  • Fixation, Ocular
  • Gestures
  • Humans
  • Intelligence
  • Kinesics
  • Language Development Disorders / diagnosis
  • Nonverbal Communication*
  • Verbal Behavior