Multimodal Communicative Patterns in Toddlers with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Toddlers with Other Developmental Disorders: A Deeper Look.

Poster Presentation
Thursday, May 10, 2018: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Hall Grote Zaal (de Doelen ICC Rotterdam)
E. Murillo1, L. Boada2 and M. Parellada3, (1)Psicología Básica, UAM. Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, Madrid, Spain, (2)Hospital Universitario Gregorio Marañón. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. IISGM. CIBERSAM, Madrid, Spain, (3)Fundación Investigación Biomedica Gregorio Marañon, Madrid, Spain

Typically developing children produce multimodal communicative behaviors from the early stages of language development. The coordination of elements such as gestures, vocalizations and use of gaze has an important predictive value in the development of later language skills. For example, the coordinated use of gestures and vocalizations at 12 months is an important predictor of lexical development three months later (Murillo & Belinchón, 2012; Wu and Gros-Louis, 2014).

Many studies have shown that children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have difficulties in the use of gestures with a communicative purpose and in the integration of multimodal information. For instance, prospective studies of high-risk children subsequently diagnosed with ASD indicate differences in the use of gestures and vocalizations at one year of age (eg, Parladé and Iverson, 2015). However, there is also some contradictory evidence. Some studies with adults and adolescents with ASD found no differences in the frequency of gestures production neither in its temporal coordination with speech compared to those with typical development. It seems, therefore, that the synchrony of communicative resources constituting multimodal communicative behaviors can be specifically affected in children with ASD at very early stages of development.

Our hypothesis is that children with ASD will produce not only less communicative behaviors, but specifically less multimodal communicative behaviors than children with other language or developmental disorders.


To explore the production of multimodal communicative behaviors as a specific marker of ASD.


Participants: 6 children (4 boys, 2 girls) aged between 23 and 40 months assessed at a University Hospital due to social and communicative development concerns. Three of the participants had an ASD diagnosis, and the other three had a language or developmental disorders. Both groups were matched by age.

The ADOS was administered individually by a clinician with the appropriate clinical and research training and reliability for the administration of the instrument and the session was recorded for later analysis. We analyzed 180 minutes of behavior through the module 1 of the ADOS-G using ELAN software by the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics.

We registered and coded all the communicative behaviors (a total of 668) during the ADOS-G administration session. Coding system included different categories for gestures, vocalizations and social use of gaze. The coders were blind to children’s ages and diagnosis.


As expected, children ASD showed a lower frequency of communicative behaviors than children with a non-ASD diagnosis (U=0; z=-1,964; p=0,050). They produced less vocalizations (U=0; z=-1,964; p=0,050) and less multimodal behaviors, combinations of gestures and vocalizations than children in the non-ASD group (U=0; z=-1,964; p=0,050). However, considering the communicative behaviors produced in proportional terms, we did not find difference between groups in the frequency of gestures without vocal accompaniment (U=3; z= -0,655; p=0,513).


Our preliminary data suggest that besides the decreased communicative acts, children with ASD have specific difficulties integrating the communicative elements into multimodal communicative behaviors but not in the frequency of gestures usewhen they are compared to other developmental disabilities.