Semester of Graduation

Summer 2021


Master of Arts (MA)


Communication Sciences and Disorders

Document Type



Background: Delayed or impaired language skills are common characteristics of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Currently, there is little research examining the receptive language profile in children with ASD, and even less is known about children with ASD who are minimally verbal. The current study aimed to characterize the receptive vocabulary profile of minimally verbal children with ASD and to examine whether this profile differs from their typically developing peers. Methods: Participants included 31 minimally verbal children with ASD, aged 60-118 months, who were reported to produce between 0-10 words, 124 typical developing toddlers, aged 9-14 months, who were matched on expressive vocabulary, and 124 typical developing toddlers, aged 8-18 months, who were matched on receptive vocabulary. Semantic and syntactic features of words that the children understood was examined using word-level responses from the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventory (Fenson et al. 2007). Results: Minimally verbal children with ASD understood a greater proportion of verbs compared to both typically developing groups. In terms of semantic categories, multiple differences were found between the minimally verbal ASD group and the typically developing expressive vocabulary-matched group. Interestingly, when compared to the receptive vocabulary-matched group, only one difference was found. Conclusions: Minimally verbal children with ASD displayed a similar receptive vocabulary profile to typically developing toddlers who were matched on receptive vocabulary abilities despite large differences in expressive vocabulary knowledge, chronological age, and mental age. These findings suggest new insight for future research using receptive-vocabulary matched groups as a point of comparison. Additionally, future studies should examine early verb learning and processing in minimally verbal children with ASD.

Committee Chair

Haebig, Eileen