2000), research suggests that this phenomenon of word loss is real and not something that is confabulated by parents. At this point we are limited in our understanding of it because we must rely on retrospective reports.
Overall, there are many aspects of language delay that have significant implications for our understanding of autistic spectrum disorders. To date most research (with a few important exceptions such as Kjelgaard & Tager-Flusberg, 2001) on the relation between language and autism has used general measures of verbal functioning. However, studies that have incorporated numerous measures have shown high correlations between receptive and expressive language measures as well as with early developmental measures such as the Mullen Scales of Early Learning (Taylor et al., 1997; Venter et al., 1992). Methodologically, it is a challenge to measure change in skills using standardized measures that necessarily shift as the skills reconfigure, and this has limited our knowledge about trajectories of language development over time. However, there are currently a number of creative attempts to develop methods that minimize these difficulties. It is also important to distinguish between the effect of the level of language impairment (e.g., verbal IQ or standard scores) and the effects of absolute language level—either expressive or receptive, or both—on other behaviors because this affects how we view the relation between language and behaviors associated with autism (Happe, 1995). Recently, many of the studies on language and autism primarily control the effect of language development to address the broader conceptualizations of cognition and social development such as theory of mind or central coherence. This strategy has been important in improving our understanding of the specificity of various cognitive deficits in autism. However, it now seems time to step back and take a more serious look at the unique trajectories of language development that may occur in autistic spectrum disorders. These trajectories may have important implications for understanding the etiology, nature of change, and potential response to treatment in autistic spectrum disorders.
Alarcon, M., Cantor, R. M., Liu, ]., Gilliam, T. C, the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange Consortium (AGRE), & Geschwind, D. H. (2002). Evidence for a language quantitative trait locus on chromosome 7q in multiplex autism families. American Journal of Human Genetics, 70, 60–71.