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Minimally Verbal School-Aged Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: The Neglected End of the Spectrum


  • Helen Tager-Flusberg,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychology, Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts
    • Address for correspondence and reprints: Helen Tager-Flusberg, Department of Psychology, Boston University, 64 Cummington Street, Boston, MA 02215, USA. E-mail:

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  • Connie Kasari

    1. Graduate School of Education, University of California, Los Angeles, California
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  • Support for preparation of this paper was provided by grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (NIDCD RO1 DC 10290-S1; P50 DC 13027) and Autism Speaks (#2468) to HTF and NIH (NIMH R01 MH084864), Autism Speaks Hi Risk/Hi Impact (#5666) and HRSA (UA3MC11055) to C.K.


It is currently estimated that about 30% of children with autism spectrum disorder remain minimally verbal, even after receiving years of interventions and a range of educational opportunities. Very little is known about the individuals at this end of the autism spectrum, in part because this is a highly variable population with no single set of defining characteristics or patterns of skills or deficits, and in part because it is extremely challenging to provide reliable or valid assessments of their developmental functioning. In this paper, we summarize current knowledge based on research including minimally verbal children. We review promising new novel methods for assessing the verbal and nonverbal abilities of minimally verbal school-aged children, including eye-tracking and brain-imaging methods that do not require overt responses. We then review what is known about interventions that may be effective in improving language and communication skills, including discussion of both nonaugmentative and augmentative methods. In the final section of the paper, we discuss the gaps in the literature and needs for future research. Autism Res 2013, 6: 468–478. © 2013 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.