Vocal Coordination During Early Parent-Infant Interactions Predicts Language Outcome in Infant Siblings of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

This study examined vocal coordination during mother-infant interactions in the infant siblings (high risk infants; HR) of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a population at heightened risk for developing language delays. Vocal coordination between mothers and HR infants was compared to a group of low risk (LR; no first- or second-degree relative with ASD) dyads, and used to predict later language development. Nine-month-old infants were videotaped at home playing with their mothers, and interactions were coded for the frequency and timing of vocalizations. Percent infant simultaneous speech was predictive of later language delay (LD), and dyads with LD infants were less coordinated with one another in average latency to respond than dyads with non-delayed (ND) infants. The degree of coordination between mothers and infants on this variable predicted a continuous measure of language development in the third year. This research underscores the importance of understanding early development in the context of interaction.

Keywords: Parent-infant interaction; coordination; high risk siblings; language development.