Processes of Language Acquisition in Children With Autism: Evidence from Preferential Looking


  • Thanks are due to Joslin Latz, Bethany Rama, Abigail Gifford, Meghan Campbell, and Amy Rawden for help in the data collection and coding process, as well as Alice Ann Howard and Katherine Kourdas for assistance with additional coding.

concerning this article should be addressed to Lauren D. Swensen, Department of Psychology, University of Connecticut, 406 Babbidge Road, Unit 1020, Storrs, Connecticut 06269-1020. Electronic mail may be sent to


Two language acquisition processes (comprehension preceding production of word order, the noun bias) were examined in 2- and 3-year-old children (n=10) with autistic spectrum disorder and in typically developing 21-month-olds (n=13). Intermodal preferential looking was used to assess comprehension of subject–verb–object word order and the tendency to map novel words onto objects rather than actions. Spontaneous speech samples were also collected. Results demonstrated significant comprehension of word order in both groups well before production. Moreover, children in both groups consistently showed the noun bias. Comprehension preceding production and the noun bias appear to be robust processes of language acquisition, observable in both typical and language-impaired populations.