Infant and child-directed speech used with infants and children at risk or diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder: a scoping review

Alix Woolard*, Alison E. Lane, Linda E. Campbell, Olivia M. Whalen, Linda Swaab, Frini Karayanidis, Daniel Barker, Vanessa Murphy, Titia Benders

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Infants diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (autism) have difficulty engaging in social communication and interactions with others and often experience language impairment. The use of infant-directed speech (IDS), which is the speech register used when interacting with infants, is associated with infant language and socio-communicative development. The aim of this study was twofold; the first aim was to scope the literature to determine if evidence exists for differences between the IDS caregivers use to infants at high-risk or those later diagnosed with autism, and the IDS typically spoken to neurotypical infants. The second aim was to investigate if any IDS characteristics used by caregivers of high-risk or diagnosed infant populations predicted language development. Twenty-six studies were included and provided evidence that high-risk and later diagnosed infants are exposed to similar amounts of IDS as their neurotypical peers. There is evidence, however, that the IDS used with high-risk and later diagnosed infants may comprise shorter utterances, more action-directing content, fewer questions, more attention bids, and more follow-in commenting. There is also evidence that more attention bids and follow-in commenting used to infants at high risk or those later diagnosed with autism were associated with better language abilities longitudinally.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalReview Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Early online date5 Apr 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
AW, OW, and LS were supported by an Australian Postgraduate Awards. V.E.M. was supported by an Australian Research Training Fellowship (part-time, grant ID 455626) and Career Development Fellowship from the NHMRC (grant ID 1084816).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • infant-directed speech
  • autism spectrum disorder
  • high-risk infants
  • communication
  • child-directed speech


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