Autism risk status and maternal behavior: impacts on infant language and communication development from 6 to 36 months of age
Talbott, Meagan Ruth
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This study explores the language and communication development of infant siblings of children with autism, who are at increased risk for impairments in these domains, over the first year of life (Jones et al., 2014). Additionally, maternal communicative input and background factors unique to this population (e.g. mothers' concerns about their infants' development and experience with a previously diagnosed child) werealso examined to determine how these parental and family factors interact with infants' early language and communication development. These issues were examined in the context of a longitudinal study of high risk infant siblings using data collected from 89 high risk infant siblings and 76 low risk infants, with the sample varying across each of three studies. Group differences in maternal and infant communication, scoredfrom both home-based written and video diaries collected over the first year of life,were analyzed using repeated measures ANOVA and non-parametric analyses; correlations analyses compared these scored behaviors to standardized measures collected in the laboratory. The number of infants diagnosed with autism ranges from 5 - 19 infants per study; analyses address both this subset of infants and the larger group of high risksiblings as a whole. Results show that a) mothers of high risk infants have consistent and early-appearing concerns about their infants' development, but these concerns are poorly related to infant symptoms before 9 months, b) delays in language, as evident in consonant production are not readily apparent at 9 months of age, and high and low risk mothers respond equivalently to these early vocalizations, c) at 12 months, high and low risk mothers use similar social-communicative prompting strategies but for high risk mothers these strategies are associated with autism-related concerns about their infant and the symptom severity of the older diagnosed child. These findings support a transactional account of early dyadic interactions, with infant language delays emerging over the first year of life and parental behavior reflecting both these emerging symptoms and unique background factors. These results are discussed in terms of the larger literature on language and communication in early infancy, as well as implications for intervention practices.