Update about “minimally verbal” children with autism spectrum disorder

Annio Posar Paola Visconti About the authors

ABSTRACT

Objective:

To review clinical and neurobiological features of minimally verbal children with autism spectrum disorder.

Data source:

We carried out a narrative review using the PubMed database. We considered the following search terms combined through the Boolean operator “AND”: “autism spectrum disorder”; “minimally verbal.”

Data synthesis:

To date, there is no shared definition of minimally verbal children with autism spectrum disorder. The heterogeneity in intellectual functioning and in linguistic abilities among these individuals suggests there is no single mechanism underlying their difficulties in learning to speak. However, the reasons why these children do not speak and the biological markers that can identify them are still unknown. Language impairment in these children can lead to several unfavorable consequences, including behavior problems (such as self-aggression, hetero-aggression, and property destruction), poorer daily living and social skills. Psychiatric comorbidities (including attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, specific phobias, and compulsions) consist in a serious problem related to the lack of verbal language in individuals with autism spectrum disorder. Although in the literature there are very few evidence-based results, several findings suggest that an alternative and augmentative communication intervention, creating an extra-verbal communication channel, may be effective in these individuals.

Conclusions:

The exact definition, clinical characteristics, associated disorders, etiology, and treatment of minimally verbal subjects with autism spectrum disorder must still be further studied and understood.

Keywords:
Autism spectrum disorder; Children; Language; Communication; Behavior

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