Language regression in childhood

Shlomo Shinnar, Isabelle Rapin, Susan Arnold, Roberto F. Tuchman, Lisa Shulman, Karen Ballaban-Gil, Myint Maw, Ruthmary K. Deuel, Fred R. Volkmar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

135 Scopus citations


Language regression is observed both in autistic regression and as part of acquired epileptic aphasia (Landau-Kleffner Syndrome). We prospectively identified 177 children with language regression at four major medical centers, and their clinical characteristics were recorded. Their mean age at regression was 22.8 months. The mean time-to-specialist referral was 38 months of age. Most children (88%) met criteria for autism or manifested autistic features. Males (P = 0.02) and children less than 3 years of age who regressed (P = 0.016) had a higher probability of developing autistic behaviors. Seizures were more common in children who regressed after they reached 3 years of age (P < 0.001), and children with seizures were less likely to have associated autistic regression (P < 0.001). Electroencephalogram abnormalities were reported in 37% of patients and were more common in children with seizures (P < 0.001). At last follow-up, language function was impaired in 88% of the children, although some improvement was noted in 57%. We conclude that the loss of previously acquired language at any age, even if that language only includes a few words or communicative gestures, is often associated with a more global regression in cognition and/or behavior and has serious implications for future function. Early identification and referral of these children is necessary to allow for diagnosis and intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-191
Number of pages7
JournalPediatric Neurology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neurology


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