High-functioning autism spectrum disorder (ASD) children seem to outgrow a critical social communication disability - integrating the auditory and visual cues associated with speech, shows scientists.
Lead author John Foxe, Ph.D., professor of pediatrics and in the Dominick P. Purpura Department of Neuroscience, as well as director of research of the Children's Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center at Einstein, said that it suggests that the neurophysiological circuits for speech in these kids aren't fundamentally broken and that they may be able to do something to help them recover sooner.
In the study, 222 children ages 5 to 17, including both typically developing children and high-functioning children with ASD, were tested for how well they could understand speech with increasing levels of background noise. In one test, the researchers played audio recordings of simple words.
In a second test, the researchers played a video of the speaker articulating the words, but no audio. A third test presented the children with both the audio and video recordings.
In the first test (audio alone), the children with ASD performed almost as well as typically developing children across all age groups and all background noise levels. In the second test (video alone), the children with ASD performed significantly worse than the typically developing children across all age groups and all background noise levels.
In the third test (audio and video), the younger children with ASD, ages 6 to 12, performed much worse than the typically developing children of the same age, particularly at higher levels of background noise. However, among the older children, there was no difference in performance between the typically developing and children with ASD.
The study has been published online in the journal Cerebral Cortex.