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Montreal Families

Study might shed light on autism

What if there was a way to improve an autistic child’s future by increasing their capacity to learn words? Language delay is one of the early indicators of autism, and researchers at McGill University are trying to figure out why and how this happens.

Dr. Aparna Nadig has been leading the exploration of individual differences in kids with autism to see how they learn new words through a bilingual study that compares them to children who don’t have the condition.

To assess how the children learn words, they do word-association type activities. For example, researchers will have a few objects and then say the word “cup” and observe which item they go towards. They then will say the word “cup” again while leaning towards it. This helps the researchers figure out how the kids learn words, either through social cues (leaning towards the cup) or by their own categorization of the word. The duration of the study is one year. After an initial lab assessment, another visit is scheduled after six months either at your home or in the lab. The final visit is one year after the first contact. At the end of the study, vocabulary levels are measured and participating children get a toy.

“This allows us to see how the child has learned and see individual strategies they have adapted to learn new words,” said Nadig. “With better understanding, we can use this knowledge to shape interventions for language in the future.”

Nadig is looking for more participants between the age of 2-6 who have an autism spectrum disorder. For more information, call (514) 398-6895 or email etudemots.wordstudy@gmail.com.

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