Children with autism gain language at greater rate than previously thought.

Seventy percent of children with autism who have a history of severe language delays are speaking by the time they are 8 years old, according to a study being published Monday inPediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The study, by researchers at the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Center for Autism and Related Disorders, shows that far more children with autism than previously thought are making significant gains in speech and language after they enter elementary school.

The Kennedy Krieger study looked at 535 children ages 8 or older who had not put words together in meaningful phrases by the time they were 4 years old. Of the 535 participants, 119 children had mastered speaking in phrases by their eighth birthday, and 253 were speaking fluently. One hundred sixty-three children never gained phrase or fluent speech.

The study showed that children with typical nonverbal intelligence scores and those who were interested in engaging in social interactions were most likely to make significant gains in language.

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