Comparing the Communication Profiles of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder & with Multisensory Impairments

Poster Presentation
Friday, May 11, 2018: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Hall Grote Zaal (de Doelen ICC Rotterdam)
M. Nunez, A. San Jose Caceres and E. Loth, Forensic and Neurodevelopmental Sciences, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London, London, United Kingdom
Background: Communication is severely affected both in young children with Multisensory Impairments/deafblindness (MSI) and children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders). This can lead to apparent similarities in the surface behaviour that, however, may have very different causes, relations with other developmental processes and implications for developmental outcomes

Objectives: This exploratory study aimed to compare the early communication and other behavioural profiles of young children with MSI and children with ASD in order to identify specific markers/associations of behaviours that can help to distinguish the communication characteristics of each group and inform practice

Methods: Fifteen young children (aged 2 -6 years) and their families took part in our study. All children had either an ASD diagnosis or a MSI diagnosis only as a prerequisite for their inclusion in this study. Children were assessed with a set of observational tools, including parental reports (e.g., Rowland’s Communication and Matrix, a tool for special needs populations) and direct observations of child/parent interactions in a semi-structured free-play situation


Results showed both quantitative and qualitative differences in the communication behaviour of the two groups. Children with ASD were at a higher level of communication than MSI children in terms of the percentages of skills credited in the Communication Matrix (e.g. at level VI, 94% in the ASD group as compared to 21% in the MSI group). Differences in favour of the ASD group, however, were mainly for skills categorised with the Obtain function (ASD, 78% vs MSI 31%) A microanalysis of the parent/child interactions showed qualitative differences between the two groups in three aspects; the typicality of the developmental path to Joint Attention (JA), the structure of the interactions and the quality of the engagement. JA episodes are not frequent in any group but are more “typical” in the MSI group. Initiation of attention bids by the children are rare in both groups but the responses to attention bids by the mothers and their engagement in the communication event was easier and clearer in the MSI group. Repetition of actions is common in both groups but the repetition of shared actions is more frequent in the MSI group. The strategies used by the mothers to get the child’s attention and her/his engagement in the interactions are adapted to each child but also have some common differences between the two groups.The two groups also differed in their repetitive behaviours scores (much higher in the ASD group). They did not differ, however, in their sensory profiles where both rated in the “atypical” range

Conclusions: These findings indicate that, despite the enormous heterogeneity within each group and their different levels of development, there are core differences between the two groups in their communication profiles. These differences can be identified in the typicality, structure and function of the parent/child communication. Other behaviours that can affect communication, such as the prevalence of repetitive behaviours, proved to be a good way to discriminate between the two groups too