This thesis investigates the phonological development of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) with the goal of identifying autism specific patterns of language development, if any such patterns exist. Previous research into the phonology of children with autism has provided conflicting profiles, arguing that this phonological development is either typical, typical but delayed, or atypical. The current study begins with a pilot study of six children with ASD between 20 months and seven years of age. The children were audio-recorded during play to document their spontaneous speech. All of the children were found to use some age appropriate phonological processes, and some children were also found to use delayed phonological processes. The second part of the study is a case study of the development of the youngest child over the course of eight months because the speech of this child exhibited atypical patterns of infelicitous pauses between and within syllables. The duration, frequency, and decline of these pauses were tracked for the period of the study and analyzed within contemporary phonology and psycholinguistics. While the pilot results show that children with ASD may exhibit both typical and delayed phonological development, the case study documents at least one case of phonological development unique to autism that cannot be characterized as typical or typical but delayed.
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Thesis advisor: Alderete, John
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