Why is research on deaf children with autism important?

More and more deaf children are being diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Yet there are still no instruments designed for detecting autism in deaf children, nor interventions specifically tailored to the needs of deaf children with an ASD. Research into how autism affects the language and cognitive development of deaf children can help inform the development of instruments and interventions specifically for deaf children.

Studying deaf children with ASD also has the power to shed light on important questions about the nature of autism and its effects on cognition and development. Sign language relies crucially on social skills known to be impaired in autism, such as eye gaze and facial expression. By studying deaf children diagnosed with an ASD, we can gain powerful insights into the nature of social deficits in autism and their cascading effects on development.

This research aims to answer questions such as:

  • What does the sign language of children with an ASD look like?
  • How do the social deficits of autism affect sign language acquisition?
  • Are there any unique error types that could be markers of autism in deaf children?