Document Type


Date of Original Version



Communicative Disorders


Purpose: In this observational study, we examined the interactions of 16 young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their parents to investigate (a) differences in verbal responsiveness used by fathers and mothers in interactions with their children with ASD and (b) concurrent associations between the language skills of children with ASD and the verbal responsiveness of both fathers and mothers.

Method: Parent verbal responsiveness was coded from video recordings of naturalistic parent–child play sessions using interval-based coding. Child language skills were measured by the Preschool Language Scale–Fourth Edition (Zimmerman, Steiner, & Pond, 2002).

Results: For both fathers and mothers, parent verbal responsiveness was positively associated with child language skills. Mothers' responsiveness was also significantly associated with child cognition. After controlling for child cognition, fathers' verbal responsiveness continued to be significantly related to child language skills.

Conclusions: Although other studies have documented associations between mothers' responsiveness and child language, this is the 1st study to document a significant concurrent association between child language skills of children with ASD and the verbal responsiveness of fathers. Findings of this study warrant the inclusion of fathers in future research on language development and intervention to better understand the potential contributions fathers may make to language growth for children with ASD over time as well as to determine whether coaching fathers to use responsive verbal strategies can improve language outcomes for children with ASD.