Linking infant-directed speech and face preferences to language outcomes in infants at risk for autism spectrum disorder

Danielle Droucker, Suzanne Curtin, Athena Vouloumanos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: In this study, the authors aimed to examine whether biases for infant-directed (ID) speech and faces differ between infant siblings of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) (SIBS-A) and infant siblings of typically developing children (SIBS-TD), and whether speech and face biases predict language outcomes and risk group membership. Method: Thirty-six infants were tested at ages 6, 8, 12, and 18 months. Infants heard 2 ID and 2 adult-directed (AD) speech passages paired with either a checkerboard or a face. The authors assessed expressive language at 12 and 18 months and general functioning at 12 months using the Mullen Scales of Early Learning (Mullen, 1995). Results: Both infant groups preferred ID to AD speech and preferred faces to checkerboards. SIBS-TD demonstrated higher expressive language at 18 months than did SIBS-A, a finding that correlated with preferences for ID speech at 12 months. Although both groups looked longer to face stimuli than to the checkerboard, the magnitude of the preference was smaller in SIBS-A and predicted expressive vocabulary at 18 months in this group. Infants' preference for faces contributed to risk-group membership in a logistic regression analysis. Conclusion: Infants at heightened risk of ASD differ from typically developing infants in their preferences for ID speech and faces, which may underlie deficits in later language development and social communication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)567-576
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2013


  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • High-risk
  • Speech perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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