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Phonetic and phonological errors in children with high functioning autism and Asperger syndrome

By Joanne Cleland, Fiona Gibbon, Sue JE Peppé, Anne O'Hare and Marion Rutherford

Abstract

This study involved a qualitative analysis of speech errors in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Participants were 69 children aged 5-13 years; 30 had high functioning autism and 39 had Asperger syndrome. On a standardized test of articulation, the minority (12%) of participants presented with standard scores below the normal range, indicating a speech delay/disorder. Although all the other children had standard scores within the normal range, a sizeable proportion (33% of those with normal standard scores) presented with a small number of errors. Overall 41% of the group produced at least some speech errors. The speech of children with ASD was characterized by mainly developmental phonological processes (gliding, cluster reduction and final consonant deletion most frequently), but non-developmental error types (such as phoneme specific nasal emission and initial consonant deletion) were found both in children identified as performing below the normal range in the standardized speech test and in those who performed within the normal range. Non-developmental distortions occurred relatively frequently in the children with ASD and previous studies of adolescents and adults with ASDs shows similar errors, suggesting that they do not resolve over time. Whether or not speech disorders are related specifically to ASD, their presence adds an additional communication and social barrier and should be diagnosed and treated as early as possible in individual children. © 2009 The Speech Pathology Association of Australia Limited

OAI identifier: oai:eresearch.qmu.ac.uk:1232

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