Research Article  |   August 2011
Using the Preschool Language Scale, Fourth Edition to Characterize Language in Preschoolers With Autism Spectrum Disorders
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Isabel M. Smith
    IWK Health Centre/Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • Peter Szatmari
    McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  • Susan Bryson
    IWK Health Centre/Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • Eric Fombonne
    McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • Pat Mirenda
    University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
  • Wendy Roberts
    The Hospital for Sick Children/University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Tracy Vaillancourt
    University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  • Charlotte Waddell
    Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada
  • Lonnie Zwaigenbaum
    University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada
  • Stelios Georgiades
    McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  • Eric Duku
    McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  • Ann Thompson
    McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  • Correspondence to Joanne Volden: joanne.volden@ualberta.ca
  • Editor: Laura Justice
    Editor: Laura Justice×
  • Associate Editor: Krista Wilkinson
    Associate Editor: Krista Wilkinson×
Article Information
Research Article
Research Article   |   August 2011
Using the Preschool Language Scale, Fourth Edition to Characterize Language in Preschoolers With Autism Spectrum Disorders
American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, August 2011, Vol. 20, 200-208. doi:10.1044/1058-0360(2011/10-0035)
History: Received April 17, 2010 , Revised October 6, 2010 , Accepted March 17, 2011
 
American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, August 2011, Vol. 20, 200-208. doi:10.1044/1058-0360(2011/10-0035)
History: Received April 17, 2010; Revised October 6, 2010; Accepted March 17, 2011
Web of Science® Times Cited: 13

Purpose: The Preschool Language Scale, Fourth Edition (PLS–4; Zimmerman, Steiner, & Pond, 2002) was used to examine syntactic and semantic language skills in preschool children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) to determine its suitability for use with this population. We expected that PLS–4 performance would be better in more intellectually able children and that receptive skills would be relatively more impaired than expressive abilities, consistent with previous findings in the area of vocabulary.

Method: Our sample consisted of 294 newly diagnosed preschool children with ASD. Children were assessed via a battery of developmental measures, including the PLS–4.

Results: As expected, PLS–4 scores were higher in more intellectually able children with ASD, and overall, expressive communication was higher than auditory comprehension. However, this overall advantage was not stable across nonverbal developmental levels. Expressive skills were significantly better than receptive skills at the youngest developmental levels, whereas the converse applied in children with more advanced development.

Conclusions: The PLS–4 can be used to obtain a general index of early syntax and semantic skill in young children with ASD. Longitudinal data will be necessary to determine how the developmental relationship between receptive and expressive language skills unfolds in children with ASD.

Acknowledgments
This research was supported by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and the Government of British Columbia, Canada. The Pathways in ASD study team was instrumental in collecting and analyzing data for this article. Although its members are not listed individually in this report, their contribution to the research was substantial and is much appreciated. We also wish to thank the children and families who generously gave of their time to participate.
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