Development of neural structure and function in autism spectrum disorder

Purpose: Neurodevelopmental processes that begin during gestation and continue throughout childhood typically support language development. Understanding these processes can help us to understand the disruptions to language that occur in neurodevelopmental conditions, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Method: For this tutorial, we conducted a focused literature review on typical postnatal brain development and structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging, diffusion tensor imaging, magnetoencephalography, and electroencephalography studies of the neurodevelopmental differences that occur in ASD. We then integrated this knowledge with the literature on evidence-based speech-language intervention practices for autistic children. Results: In ASD, structural differences include altered patterns of cortical growth and myelination. Functional differences occur at all brain levels, from lateralization of cortical functions to the rhythmic activations of single neurons. Neuronal oscillations, in particular, could help explain disrupted language development by elucidating the timing differences that contribute to altered functional connectivity, complex information processing, and speech parsing. Findings related to implicit statistical learning, explicit task learning, multisensory integration, and reinforcement in ASD are also discussed. Conclusions: Consideration of the neural differences in autistic children provides additional scientific support for current recommended language intervention practices. Recommendations consistent with these neurological findings include the use of short, simple utterances; repetition of syntactic structures using varied vocabulary; pause time; visual supports; and individualized sensory modifications.



Work Title Development of neural structure and function in autism spectrum disorder
Subtitle Potential implications for learning language
Open Access
  1. Kelly L. Coburn
  2. Diane L. Williams
License In Copyright (Rights Reserved)
Work Type Article
  1. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology
Publication Date November 1, 2020
Publisher Identifier (DOI)
Deposited August 12, 2021




This resource is currently not in any collection.

Work History

Version 1

  • Created
  • Added AJSLP-19-00209_R1.pdf
  • Added Creator Kelly L. Coburn
  • Added Creator Diane L. Williams
  • Published
  • Updated
  • Updated