Sensorimotor skills and language comprehension in autistic children

Marian Sigman*, Judy Ungerer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

38 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The objectives of this study were to examine the level of sensorimotor concepts of young autistic children and to relate these concepts to language comprehension. A sample of 16 autistic children with a mean mental age of 24.8 months was administered a standardized scale of sensorimotor intelligence and of receptive language. The autistic children demonstrated surprisingly sophisticated sensorimotor skills, particularly object permanence. While their initial performance was inferior to that of normal controls matched on mental age, particularly in their use of objects in combination, the difference between groups diminished on the second test administration. On the receptive language measure, the autistic children were less able to identify words correctly. The sensorimotor behavior of autistic children who demonstrated language comprehension did not differ from those who showed no language comprehension, except that the former group tended to use an object as an instrument somewhat more frequently. The fact that the autistic children were so impaired in language even with fairly good sensorimotor skills suggests that these skills, particularly object permanence, play a minor role in their language acquisition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-165
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Volume9
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1981

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