Although no longer required for a diagnosis, language delays are extremely common in children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Factors associated with socioeconomic status (SES) have broad-reaching impact on language development in early childhood. Despite recent advances in characterizing autism in early childhood, the relationship between SES and language development in ASD has not received much attention.
The objective of this study was
to examine whether toddlers and preschoolers with ASD from low-resource families are more likely to experience language delays above and beyond those associated with autism itself.
Developmental and diagnostic assessments including the Mullen Scales of Early Learning, the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, Second Edition, and the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales were obtained from 62 young children with ASD and 45 typically developing children aged 15 to 64 months. Sociodemographic information including household income, maternal education, and racial/ethnic identity was obtained from caregivers. Multiple regression models were used to test for associations between socioeconomic indices and language scores.
Maternal education accounted for variability in expressive language (EL) and receptive language (RL), with lower SES indices associated with lower language skills, and more so in children with ASD.
These results demonstrate that variability in EL and RL skills in young children with autism can be accounted for by socioeconomic variables. These findings highlight the necessity for targeted intervention and effective implementation strategies for children with ASD from low-resource households and communities and for policies designed to improve learning opportunities and access to services for these young children and their families.