Profiles of language and communication abilities in adolescents with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

Poth L.D., Love T., & Mattson S.N. Profiles of language and communication abilities in adolescents with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 1–10,


Objective: Language and communication are largely understudied among youth with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). Findings have been mixed, and have generally focused on more severely affected (i.e., children with FAS alone) or younger children. This study aimed to elucidate the profiles of language (i.e., receptive, expressive, general language) and communication (i.e., functional, social) abilities in adolescents with FASD.

Method: Participants aged 12–17 years with (AE = 31) and without (CON = 29) prenatal alcohol exposure were included. Receptive and expressive language were measured by the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals – Fifth Edition (CELF-5). Parents or caregivers completed the Children’s Communication Checklist – Second Edition as a subjective measure of general language skills. Functional communication was measured by the Student Functional Assessment of Verbal Reasoning and Executive Strategies and parents or caregivers completed the Social Skills Improvement System Rating Scales as a measure of social communication. Multivariate analysis of variance determined the overall profiles of language and communication and whether they differed between groups.

Results: The AE group performed significantly lower than the CON group on receptive language and parent report of general language while groups did not significantly differ on expressive language. Groups did not significantly differ on functional communication while social communication was significantly lower in the AE group.

Conclusions: Results of this study provide important information regarding the overall profile of basic language abilities and higher-level communication skills of adolescents with FASD. Ultimately, improving communication skills of youth with FASD may translate to better overall functioning.

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