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Maternal response may aid autism language

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MIAMI, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- University of Miami researchers say maternal sensitivity may influence language development among children who go on to develop autism.

Daniel Messinger of the University of Miami, the principal investigator of a larger study of infants at risk for autism that includes this study, says the study examines how early parenting can promote resiliency in this population.

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"Language problems are among the most important areas to address for children with autism, because they represent a significant impairment in daily living and communication," Messinger said in a statement.

Maternal sensitivity is defined in the study as a combination of warmth, responsiveness to the child's needs, respect for his or her emerging independence, positive regard for the child, and maternal structuring, or how a mother engages and teaches her child. For example, if a child is playing with colored rings, the mother might say, "This is the green ring," thus teaching her child about his environment, Messinger says.

The study, published online ahead of print in the upcoming Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, says maternal sensitivity was more predictive of language growth among toddlers developing autism than among children who did not go on to an autism diagnosis.

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