International Meeting for Autism Research (London, May 15-17, 2008): Expression of distress in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Expression of distress in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Thursday, May 15, 2008
Champagne Terrace/Bordeaux (Novotel London West)
9:30 AM
G. Esposito , University of Trento, Italy, Trento, Italy
P. Venuti , University of Trento, Trento, Italy
S. De Falco , Department of Cognitive Science and Education, University of Trento, University of Trento, Trento, Italy
Background: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a disorder that affects communication and social skills to varying degrees.  While many studies have concentrated on examining the patterns of behavior and development in the context of speaking and interacting, very few studies have investigated the specificity of cry in infants with ASD. And this is very peculiar considering that cry can be viewed as both the first communicative system and the first social structure in human development.
Objectives: Aim of this research project is to investigate how is perceived the crying of children with ASD, as opposed to TD children or children with other Developmental Disability (DD).
Methods: Different methodologies are being used in this research project: (i) a “Listen & Response” experiment for testing whether the atypical structure of autistic cry can bias the parents’ perception, (ii) an Observational Study, to analyze the caregiver behaviour in a real scenario.
Results: We found considerable agreement between the results of the 2 studies. The methodologies showed that cry episodes of ASD were considered to be the same as those of younger TD and DD children. Balanced for age, ASD cries elicited negative patterns of emotional states as compared to parents’ responses to the cries of TD and DD children. These data highlight that the cry of children with ASD are not well identified. Moreover, the ASD cries elicited negative feelings.
Conclusions: ASD cries have ambiguous patterns, and therefore may not seem understandable. Parents’ reactions to autistic cries are qualitatively different from their responses to cries of children with TD and DD of the same age. This difference can be an additional cause of difficulty in sharing feelings and developing inter-subjectivity processes.
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