Auditory Processing & Autism

See also:    Auditory Training    Sensory Systems   

Internet Resources

There has been considerable recent interest in the cognitive style of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). One theory, that of weak central coherence, concerns an inability to combine stimulus details into a coherent whole. Here we test this theory in the case of sound patterns, using a new definition of the details (local structure) and the coherent whole (global structure). Thirteen individuals with a diagnosis of autism or Asperger's syndrome and 15 control participants were administered auditory tests, where they were required to match local pitch direction changes between two auditory sequences. When the other local features of the sequence pairs were altered (the actual pitches and relative time points of pitch direction change), the control participants obtained lower scores compared with when these details were left unchanged. This can be attributed to interference from the global structure, defined as the combination of the local auditory details. In contrast, the participants with ASD did not obtain lower scores in the presence of such mismatches. This was attributed to the absence of interference from an auditory coherent whole. The results are consistent with the presence of abnormal interactions between local and global auditory perception in ASD.
Jessica M. Foxton et al
Information about Auditory Processing Disorder from many types of web site and from many sources.
The researchers examined the electrophysiological changes that occur during the 'automatic' detection of a change in auditory frequency. Fifteen autistic children and 15 normal children (controls) participated in this study.
Perception difficulties are common in autism even though their presence is not part of the diagnostic criteria for the disorder. This paper reviews six experiments in auditory perception done with autistic children and adults. Problems arising from both cortical and sub-cortical brain structures are pointed to. Enhanced abilities as well as defects in audition are discussed.
Autism Diva
Hearing impairment is rarely a loss of acuity in the ear itself, but instead is usually located in the neural pathways of the brain which link the ear with the highest intellectual centers This is the central auditory nervous system.
Judith Paton
Sometimes the lack of speech comprehension is interpreted by others as an unwillingness to comply. However, the person may not be able to retrieve the meaning of the sound at that particular time.
Stephen Edelson
Auditory processing enables sound localization and lateralization; auditory discrimination; auditory pattern recognition; temporal aspects of audition; auditory performance with acoustic signals and auditory performance with degraded acoustic signals.
Theresa Brassard
Families today still hear their child is outstanding, meaning that the professional has not seen other children like theirs.
Alan Bartel
What other children perceive as normal noise can be intensely intense and painful, eroding their ability to communicate and learn... The wide range of noises affecting autistic and gifted children include general classroom noise, school bells, machine noise from fans, vaccum cleaners and lawn mowing – and unexpected noises such as dogs barking and road works.
The sensory system (in this case the ear) that brings speech into the body is working properly, but the parts of the brain which analyze and interpret the sensory information are not. The child can hear, but listening is the problem.
Wilford Hall Medical Center Audiology, Speech Pathology Clinic
CAPD is a disorder which takes place in the brain and makes it difficult to interpret sounds and/or language. It is not a disorder of the ear.
Amanda Baggs
It is important when trying to determine if a child/or adult has an Auditory Processing Disorder, to understand that there is a difference between the capacity to 'hear sounds and speech,' and the capacity to actually process what is heard.
Autism spectrum disorders are particularly difficult to diagnose in the presence of early profound deafness because of communication related issues. Two parts of the Autism Screening Instrument were administered to 13 deaf individuals with autism and two comparison groups: hearing autistic and deaf learning disabled. A parental questionnaire was also used. No differences in autistic symptomatology were found between the deaf autistic and the hearing autistic group. However, the deaf autistic group was diagnosed later than the hearing autistic group. It is concluded that autism can be diagnosed in the deaf; that it resembles autism in the hearing; and that it is not a consequence of deafness per se. Learning disabled deaf individuals who are not autistic do not resemble people with autism in behavioural terms. The findings have implications for remediation, education, and the emergence and management of challenging behaviours.
Louise Roper et al
Of infants in this country with hearing loss, most go undetected until approximately 2.5 years of age. The earlier hearing impairment is detected, the greater the potential of maximizing speech and language skills.
Mary Elizabeth Givens, Angelique N. Williams
Specific methods and materials abound for teaching both sign and spoken language to deaf people. Autism intervention, dominated as it is by psychology/psychiatry gurus rather than educators, offers only the vaguest and the most schematic of intervention strategies. While often passed off as comprehensive curricula, these strategies fall far short of the specificity, practicability, and effectiveness of intervention materials for deaf children. Ultimately, parents realize that it is up to them to devise specific lessons for their children, and that it is up to all of us who work with autistic children directly -- parents, teachers, and therapists -- to compile, collectively, the truly comprehensive autism curriculum that we all so desperately need.
Katharine Beals
Past research has shown a superiority of participants with high-functioning autism over comparison groups in memorizing picture-pitch associations and in detecting pitch changes in melodies. A subset of individuals with autism, known as "musical savants," is also known to possess absolute pitch. This superiority might be due to an abnormally high sensitivity to fine-grained pitch differences in sounds. To test this hypothesis, psychoacoustic tasks were devised so as to use a signal detection methodology. Participants were all musically untrained and were divided into a group of 12 high-functioning individuals with autism and a group of 12 normally developing individuals. Their task was to judge the pitch of pure tones in a "same-different" discrimination task and in a "high-low" categorization task. In both tasks, the obtained psychometric functions revealed higher pitch sensitivity for subjects with autism, with a more pronounced advantage over control participants in the categorization task. These findings confirm that pitch processing is enhanced in "high-functioning" autism. Superior performance in pitch discrimination and categorization extends previous findings of enhanced visual performance to the auditory domain. Thus, and as predicted by the enhanced perceptual functioning model for peaks of ability in autism (Mottron & Burack, 2001), autistic individuals outperform typically developing population in a variety of low-level perceptual tasks.
Anna Bonnel, Laurent Mottron et al
Dorothy Bishop and G. M. McArthur
AP has also been reported anecdotally in the setting of certain neurological disorders, particularly autism and Williams syndrome (Sacks 1995), although the true prevalence has not been established with any degree of accuracy. Ascertainment of the AP phenotype in these disorders is extremely difficult, since testing requires that subjects possess a knowledge of music (i.e., knowing the common names of pitches). A proportion of individuals with Williams syndrome are gifted musically, even in the face of significant mental disability. However, a preliminary search for linkage between AP ability and genes in the Williams region on chromosome 7 has yielded negative results (Gregersen et al. 1997). The genetics of autism appears to be quite complex (Smalley 1997), but it is possible that there is genetic overlap between AP ability and autism, since some autistic individuals are musical savants who possess AP.
Peter Gregersen
Dedicated to furthering Dr. William S. Condon's research into subconscious body movement in response to heard sound.
Here we describe a recent set of studies designed to enable the delineation of autistic phenotypes. These serve to draw together a number of recent findings, and point to a connection between autism and auditory processing.
Michael Siegal, Mark Blades
A multi-modal abnormality in the integration of parts and whole has been proposed to account for a bias toward local stimuli in individuals with autism. In the current experiment, we examined the utility of hierarchical models in characterising musical information processing in autistic individuals. Participants were 13 high-functioning individuals with autism and 13 individuals of normal intelligence matched on chronological age, nonverbal IQ, and laterality, and without musical experience. The task consisted of same-different judgements of pairs of melodies. Differential local and global processing was assessed by manipulating the level, local or global, at which modifications occurred. No deficit was found in the two measures of global processing. In contrast, the clinical group performed better than the comparison group in the detection of change in nontransposed, contour-preserved melodies that tap local processing. These findings confirm the existence of a "local bias" in music perception in individuals with autism, but challenge the notion that it is accounted for by a deficit in global music processing. The present study suggests that enhanced processing of elementary physical properties of incoming stimuli, as found previously in the visual modality, may also exist in the auditory modality.
L. Mottron
In addition to evaluating the psychosocial factors that may play a role in driving the anxiety of these children, clinicians need to complete careful evaluation for neurological and language-based problems. (JAACAP)
Alan J. Lincoln
He asks why it is acceptable to expect autistic children to negotiate their way around any such (noisy) environment when we never expect children with physical disabilities to negotiate their way up a flight of steps.
Promotes and supports new developments and effective practices in the education of children and young people with sensory impairments i.e. visual, hearing or dual (deaf blindness) sensory impairment.
In sum, although the auditory modality can dominate the visual modality at 10 months of age, the visual modality can process temporal information when the temporal relationship of the information in the two modalities is distinct.
David Lewkowicz
The reaction to all unexpected noises may be related to what is called stimulus overselectivity in the field. In this case, your son identifies fire alarms by one of their most emotion-causing features, in other words, that being that they are unexpected, and OVER generalizes that concept to all unexpected noises.
Carol Gray
Do the reactions to certain sounds in one's environment necessarily mean that the person is experiencing pain? I feel that some individuals may experience pain; but in others, sounds are simply heard too loudly and may cause a fear response.
Stephen Edelson
I have trouble determining if a given note is higher or lower in pitch then another if the volume is also different. To me, pitch and volume are seen as the same thing to my conscious mind, although I can appreciate music and tell when something is wrong with a musical piece. To explain this to my musical friends, I put together some sounds that describe what can't hear consciously. If you want to test yourself, follow along with my directions, below.
Joel Smith
The exploration of delayed and echoing hearing provides a logical explanation for many of the things we observe, such as poor social skills, communication difficulties, visual learning, and high anxiety.
David Tremain

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