Blog Archives

Early Childhood Predictors of the Social Competence of Adults with Autism

Longitudinal research into adult outcomes in autism remains limited. Unlike previous longitudinal examinations of adult outcome in autism, the twenty participants in this study were evaluated across multiple assessments between early childhood (M = 3.9 years) and adulthood (M = 26.6 years). In early childhood, responsiveness to joint attention (RJA), language, and intelligence were assessed. In adulthood, the parents of participants responded to interviews assessing the adaptive functioning, autistic symptomology and global functioning of their children. RJA and early childhood language predicted a composite measure of adult social functioning and independence. Early childhood language skills and intelligence predicted adult adaptive behaviors. RJA predicted adult non-verbal communication, social skills and symptoms. Adaptive behaviors changed with development, but symptoms of autism did not. Additional factors associated with adult outcomes are discussed.

from the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders


Preschool impairments in auditory processing and speech perception uniquely predict future reading problems

Developmental dyslexia is characterized by severe reading and spelling difficulties that are persistent and resistant to the usual didactic measures and remedial efforts. It is well established that a major cause of these problems lies in poorly specified phonological representations. Many individuals with dyslexia also present impairments in auditory temporal processing and speech perception, but it remains debated whether these more basic perceptual impairments play a role in causing the reading problem. Longitudinal studies may help clarifying this issue by assessing preschool children before they receive reading instruction and by following them up through literacy development. The current longitudinal study shows impairments in auditory frequency modulation (FM) detection, speech perception and phonological awareness in kindergarten and in grade 1 in children who receive a dyslexia diagnosis in grade 3. FM sensitivity and speech-in-noise perception in kindergarten uniquely contribute to growth in reading ability, even after controlling for letter knowledge and phonological awareness. These findings indicate that impairments in auditory processing and speech perception are not merely an epiphenomenon of reading failure. Although no specific directional relations were observed between auditory processing, speech perception and phonological awareness, the highly significant concurrent and predictive correlations between all these variables suggest a reciprocal association and corroborate the evidence for the auditory deficit theory of dyslexia.

from Research in Developmental Disabilities

Heritability Estimation for Speech-Sound Traits with Developmental Trajectories

Numerous studies have examined genetic influences on developmental problems such as speech sound disorders (SSD), language impairment (LI), and reading disability. Disorders such as SSD are often analyzed using their component endophenotypes. Most studies, however, have involved comparisons of twin pairs or siblings of similar age, or have adjusted for age ignoring effects that are peculiar to age-related trajectories for phenotypic change. Such developmental changes in these skills have limited the usefulness of data from parents or siblings who differ substantially in age from the probands. Employing parent–offspring correlation in heritability estimation permits a more precise estimate of the additive component of genetic variance, but different generations have to be measured for the same trait. We report on a smoothing procedure which fits a series of lines that approximate a curve matching the developmental trajectory. This procedure adjusts for changes in measures with age, so that the adjusted values are on a similar scale for children, adolescents, and adults. We apply this method to four measures of phonological memory and articulation in order to estimate their heritability. Repetition of multisyllabic real words (MSW) showed the best heritability estimate of 45% in this sample. We conclude that differences in measurement scales across the age span can be reconciled through non-linear modeling of the developmental process.

from Behavior Genetics

Individual differences in executive function and central coherence predict developmental changes in theory of mind in autism.

There is strong evidence to suggest that individuals with autism show atypicalities in multiple cognitive domains, including theory of mind (ToM), executive function (EF), and central coherence (CC). In this study, the longitudinal relationships among these 3 aspects of cognition in autism were investigated. Thirty-seven cognitively able children with an autism spectrum condition were assessed on tests targeting ToM (false-belief prediction), EF (planning ability, cognitive flexibility, and inhibitory control), and CC (local processing) at intake and again 3 years later. Time 1 EF and CC skills were longitudinally predictive of change in children’s ToM test performance, independent of age, language, nonverbal intelligence, and early ToM skills. Predictive relations in the opposite direction were not significant, and there were no developmental links between EF and CC. Rather than showing problems in ToM, EF and CC as co-occurring and independent atypicalities in autism, these findings suggest that early domain-general skills play a critical role in shaping the developmental trajectory of children’s ToM. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2010 APA, all rights reserved)

from the American Psychological Association

Twenty-Year Follow-Up of Children With and Without Speech-Language Impairments: Family, Educational, Occupational, and Quality of Life Outcomes

Conclusion: This information on the natural history of communication disorders may be useful in answering parents’ questions, anticipating challenges that children with language disorders might encounter, and planning services to address those issues.

from the American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology

Health and social outcomes in adults with Williams syndrome: Findings from cross-sectional and longitudinal cohorts

Previous studies have investigated trajectories of cognitive, language and adaptive functioning in Williams syndrome (WS) but little is known about how other aspects of the Williams syndrome behavioural phenotype change across the life-span. Therefore, the present study examined age associated changes in a number of different domains of functioning in adults with WS. Semi-structured interviews and standardized assessments of physical health, educational and occupational levels, self-care and independence, social interactions, and behavioural difficulties were conducted with adults with WS and their parents/carers. Ninety-two individuals with genetic confirmation of WS (50 males, 42 females) participated in a cross-sectional study (age range 19–55 years; mean 32 years) and 43 individuals (21 males, 22 females) were involved in a longitudinal study as they had taken part in a previous study of adults with WS. Not all individuals in the longitudinal cohort had genetically confirmed WS. Cross-sectional analyses revealed no age related differences in the areas of functioning investigated. However, in the longitudinal sample, significant improvements were reported in physical health, self-care and occupational skills. Social skills and adaptive behaviours had generally improved while behavioural difficulties had declined. In both cross-sectional and longitudinal cohorts there were significant correlations between adaptive functioning and IQ. These findings are consistent in indicating no age related decline in social or adaptive functioning in adults with WS, at least up to the age of 50–55 years.

from Research in Developmental Disabilities

Speech Disruptions in Relation to Language Growth in Children Who Stutter: An Exploratory Study

Young children with typical fluency demonstrate a range of disfluencies, or speech disruptions. One type of disruption, revision, appears to increase in frequency as syntactic skills develop. To date, this phenomenon has not been studied in children who stutter (CWS). Rispoli and colleagues (2008) suggest a schema for categorizing speech disruptions in terms of revisions and stalls. The purpose of this exploratory study was to use this schema to evaluate whether CWS show a pattern over time in their production of stuttering, revisions, and stalls. Nine CWS, ages 2;1 to 4;11, participated in the study, producing language samples each month for 10 months. MLU and vocd analyses were performed for samples across three time periods. Active declarative sentences within these samples were examined for the presence of disruptions. Results indicated that the proportion of sentences containing revisions increased over time, but proportions for stalls and stuttering did not. Visual inspection revealed that more stuttering and stalls occurred on longer utterances than on shorter utterances. Upon examination of individual children’s language, it appears two-thirds of the children showed a pattern in which, as MLU increased, revisions increased as well. Findings are similar to studies of children with typical fluency, suggesting that, despite the fact that CWS display more (and different) disfluencies relative to typically fluent peers, revisions appear to increase over time and correspond to increases in MLU, just as is the case with peers.

from Journal of Fluency Disorders

What Influences Literacy Outcome in Children With Speech Sound Disorder?

Conclusions: Results support previous literature findings that SSD history predicts literacy difficulties and that the association is strongest for SSD + language impairment (LI). Magnitude of phonological impairment alone did not determine literacy outcome, as predicted by the core phonological deficit hypothesis. Instead, consistent with a multiple deficit approach, phonological deficits appeared to interact with other cognitive factors in literacy development.

from the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research

Autobiographical memory in semantic dementia: a longitudinal fMRI study

While patients with semantic dementia (SD) are known to suffer from semantic memory and language impairments, there is less agreement about whether memory for personal everyday experiences, autobiographical memory, is compromised. In healthy individuals, functional MRI (fMRI) has helped to delineate a consistent and distributed brain network associated with autobiographical recollection. Here we examined how the progression of SD affected the brain’s autobiographical memory network over time. We did this by testing autobiographical memory recall in a SD patient, AM, with fMRI on three occasions, each one year apart, during the course of his disease. At the outset, his autobiographical memory was intact. This was followed by a gradual loss in recollective quality that collapsed only late in the course of the disease. There was no evidence of a temporal gradient. Initially, AM’s recollection was supported by the classic autobiographical memory network, including atrophied tissue in hippocampus and temporal neocortex. This was subsequently augmented by up-regulation of other parts of the memory system, namely ventromedial and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, right lateral temporal cortex, and precuneus. A final step-change in the areas engaged and the quality of recollection then preceded the collapse of autobiographical memory. Our findings inform theoretical debates about the role of the hippocampus and neocortical areas in supporting remote autobiographical memories. Furthermore, our results suggest it may be possible to define specific stages in SD-related memory decline, and that fMRI could complement MRI and neuropsychological measures in providing more precise prognostic and rehabilitative information for clinicians and carers.

from Neuropsychologia

Brain atrophy associated with baseline and longitudinal measures of cognition

The overall goal was to identify patterns of brain atrophy associated with cognitive impairment and future cognitive decline in non-demented elders. Seventy-one participants were studied with structural MRI and neuropsychological testing at baseline and 1-year follow-up. Deformation-based morphometry was used to examine the relationship between regional baseline brain tissue volume with baseline and longitudinal measures of delayed verbal memory, semantic memory, and executive function. Smaller right hippocampal and entorhinal cortex (ERC) volumes at baseline were associated with worse delayed verbal memory performance at baseline while smaller left ERC volume was associated with greater longitudinal decline. Smaller left superior temporal cortex at baseline was associated with worse semantic memory at baseline, while smaller left temporal white and gray matter volumes were associated with greater semantic memory decline. Increased CSF and smaller frontal lobe volumes were associated with impaired executive function at baseline and greater longitudinal executive decline. These findings suggest that baseline volumes of prefrontal and temporal regions may underlie continuing cognitive decline due to aging, pathology, or both in non-demented elderly individuals.

from Neurobiology of Aging

Verbal Learning Changes in Older Adults Across 18 Months

The major aim of this study was to investigate individual changes in verbal learning across a period of 18 months. Individual differences in verbal learning have largely been neglected in the last years and, even more so, individual differences in change in verbal learning. The sample for this study comes from the Zurich Longitudinal Study on Cognitive Aging (ZULU; Zimprich et al., 2008a) and comprised 336 older adults in the age range of 65-80 years at first measurement occasion. In order to address change in verbal learning we used a latent change model of structured latent growth curves to account for the non-linearity of the verbal learning data. The individual learning trajectories were captured by a hyperbolic function which yielded three psychologically distinct parameters: initial performance, learning rate, and asymptotic performance. We found that average performance increased with respect to initial performance, but not in learning rate or in asymptotic performance. Further, variances and covariances remained stable across both measurement occasions, indicating that the amount of individual differences in the three parameters remained stable, as did the relationships among them. Moreover, older adults differed reliably in their amount of change in initial performance and asymptotic performance. Eventually, changes in asymptotic performance and learning rate were strongly negatively correlated. It thus appears as if change in verbal learning in old age is a constrained process: an increase in total learning capacity implies that it takes longer to learn. Together, these results point to the significance of individual differences in change of verbal learning in the elderly.

from Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition

Adult psychosocial outcomes of children with specific language impairment, pragmatic language impairment and autism

Conclusions & Implications: The between-group differences in autistic symptomatology provide further evidence that SLI, PLI, and ASD are related disorders that vary along qualitative dimensions of language structure, language use and circumscribed interests. Childhood diagnosis showed some relation to adult psychosocial outcome. However, within-group variation highlights the importance of evaluating children on a case-by-case basis.

from the International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders

A systematic review of pediatric sensorineural hearing loss in congenital syphilis

There have been no reports of children with confirmed congenital SNHL secondary to in utero syphilis infection. Newborns with positive syphilis serology should have hearing screening performed at birth and receive treatment with an appropriate course of penicillin therapy. Longitudinal hearing screening is recommended for all pediatric patients with congenital syphilis, as further studies documenting longitudinal audiometric data for patients previously treated either fully or partly for congenital syphilis are required.

from the International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology