Concurrent Associations Between Expressive Language Ability and Independence in Adolescents and Adults With Fragile X Syndrome

Leonard Abbeduto, University of California
Jessica Klusek, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina
Julie Lounds Taylor, Department of Pediatrics, Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Nadia Abdelnur, MIND Institute & Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of California
Nicole Sparapani, MIND Institute & School of Education, University of California
Angela John Thurman, MIND Institute & Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of California

© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https:// 4.0/).


BACKGROUND: Few individuals with fragile X syndrome (FXS) successfully meet adult normative expectations in education, employment, peer relations, and habitation, although there is within-syndrome variability in this regard. The primary goal of this study was to determine whether expressive language skills contribute to the capacity for independent functioning in adulthood even after controlling for nonverbal cognitive ability. METHODS: Participants were 18- to 23-year-olds with FXS. Expressive language was assessed using the psychometrically validated Expressive Language Sampling (ELS) conversation and narration procedures. The language produced was transcribed and analyzed to yield measures of expressive vocabulary, syntax, and intelligibility. Parents concurrently completed questionnaires on the independent functioning of the participants with FXS. RESULTS: All three ELS measures were significantly corelated with multiple measures of independence. The magnitudes of the correlations were reduced when nonverbal IQ was controlled through partial correlation. Nonetheless, many of the partial correlations were medium to large and several were statistically significant. CONCLUSIONS: Expressive language skills appear to contribute uniquely to the capacity for independence, although longitudinal data are needed to evaluate the possibility of a bidirectional relationship between these domains. Thus, language intervention may be a prerequisite for preparing youth with FXS for an independent adult life.