Clarifying the Associations Between Language and Social Development in Autism: A Study of Non-native Phoneme Recognition
Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are characterized by correlated deficiencies in social and language development. This study explored a fundamental aspect of auditory information processing (AIP) that is dependent on social experience and critical to early language development: the ability to compartmentalize close-sounding speech sounds into singular phonemes. We examined this ability by assessing whether close-sounding non-native language phonemes were more likely to be perceived as disparate sounds by school-aged children with high-functioning ASD (n = 27), than by unaffected control subjects (n = 35). No significant group differences were observed. Although earlier in autistic development there may exist qualitative deficits in this specific aspect of AIP, they are not an enduring characteristic of verbal school-aged children with ASD.
KeywordsAutism Language Social Responsiveness Scale Auditory discrimination Speech perception Information processing Phonemic awareness
This work was supported in part, by a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD042541) to Dr. Constantino. We wish to thank two anonymous colleagues for their very thoughtful reviews of an earlier version of this manuscript. We gratefully acknowledge the generous donation of time and effort by the subjects and their families, all of whom have participated in our longitudinal research program. For their ongoing dedication to scientific research, we are deeply grateful.
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