Laboratory on Language Development in Neurodevelopmental Disorders

Our research group is interested in exploring language development in children with developmental disabilities, including fragile X syndrome (FXS), Down syndrome (DS), and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We have found that each of these conditions has a unique linguistic “signature,” with different areas of relative strength and challenge.

Our current projects examine biological, behavioral, and environmental factors that influence the ways in which language develops over time and the processes that underlie language learning. We are interested, for example, in the ways in which differences in the FMR1 gene can lead to different language outcomes in people with FXS. As another example, we are interested in studying the ways in which parents can help promote language development in their sons and daughters.  And finally, we are studying the ways in which limitations in memory, problem solving, social understanding, and other abilities can alter the rate of language learning by individual with developmental disabilities.

Our goal is to use what we learn to promote more effective interventions for individuals with these disabilities. We expect to achieve this goal by sharing our findings with families, educators, and speech-language clinicians. We also are beginning to study ways in which language therapies can be made more effective. 

Highlighted Study

Study on Spoken Language in Down Syndrome or Fragile X Syndrome

If you have a son or daughter with Down syndrome or fragile X syndrome who is between 6 and 23 years of age, you and your child are invited to participate in a research study being conducted by Dr. Leonard Abbeduto at the MIND Institute University of California, Davis, and four other sites across the United States.

The goal of this study is to learn more about how samples of spoken language can be used to measure change over time in the spoken language, problem solving, and behavior of individuals with genetic syndromes. In the future, it is possible that measures of spoken language production may be useful as one way to learn whether different drugs can help individuals with genetic syndromes to learn and use language more effectively.

If you decide that you and your son or daughter would like to be in this study, we will ask you to visit one of the study sites three times over two years in time. At each visit, we will collect a sample of your son or daughter’s spoken language as s/he interacts with an examiner in three different settings: a conversation, looking at a picture book, and participating in a series of interactive activities. We will also give your child some tests that will measure his/her problem solving skills and how much language s/he understands and produces. We will ask you to fill out some questionnaires and participate in an interview about your child’s everyday living skills.

If you would like to learn more about this study, please call the Study Coordinator at 916-703-0438 or email: We look forward to hearing from you.