Uh and um in children with autism spectrum disorders or language impairment

Kyle Gorman, Lindsay Olson, Alison Presmanes Hill, Rebecca Lunsford, Peter A. Heeman, Jan P.H. van Santen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Atypical pragmatic language is often present in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), along with delays or deficits in structural language. This study investigated the use of the “fillers” uh and um by children ages 4–8 during the autism diagnostic observation schedule. Fillers reflect speakers' difficulties with planning and delivering speech, but they also serve communicative purposes, such as negotiating control of the floor or conveying uncertainty. We hypothesized that children with ASD would use different patterns of fillers compared to peers with typical development or with specific language impairment (SLI), reflecting differences in social ability and communicative intent. Regression analyses revealed that children in the ASD group were much less likely to use um than children in the other two groups. Filler use is an easy-to-quantify feature of behavior that, in concert with other observations, may help to distinguish ASD from SLI. Autism Res 2016, 9: 854–865.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)854-865
Number of pages12
JournalAutism Research
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016


  • autism spectrum disorders
  • conversational reciprocity
  • disfluency
  • fillers
  • language impairment
  • pragmatic language
  • social communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Genetics(clinical)


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