International Meeting for Autism Research (London, May 15-17, 2008): Neuropsychological Perspectives on Sensory Processing in Autism

Neuropsychological Perspectives on Sensory Processing in Autism

Saturday, May 17, 2008: 2:40 PM
Avize-Morangis (Novotel London West)
L. Bennetto , Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY
There is a growing appreciation for the role that basic sensory processing problems in autism play in the development and presentation of core diagnostic symptoms and everyday functioning difficulties. Using neuropsychological theory and research, this talk will highlight how two common clinical features of autism (communication impairments, atypical eating patterns) may be explained in part by basic sensory difficulties in hearing, vision, taste, and/or smell processing. Within the domain of communication, research in autism reveals evidence of impaired perception of unimodal auditory and visual information during speech processing, as well as evidence for impairments in multimodal processing (e.g., the enhanced perception of speech when viewing the speaker’s lips). This talk will further discuss how these deficits could be related to delays in language acquisition, as well as later impairments in the comprehension of verbal and nonverbal information in social and academic settings. Within the domain of eating behaviors, neuropsychological studies are beginning to reveal how differences in basic functions requiring chemosensory (taste and smell) processing may influence food selection in persons with autism. These recent findings provide empirical support for the long-standing concerns of parents about their children’s unusual or restricted eating habits, and illustrate the importance of sensory processing functions as one component that may interact with myriad other biological or environmental factors to result in eating problems. This talk will describe both parent report and neuropsychological methods for evaluating sensory processing in autism and discuss how sensory processing across modalities can influence everyday functioning. Advantages and limitations of these types of modality-specific neuropsychological investigations will be presented, focusing on the translation of knowledge from this area of study to neurobiological or clinical studies in the future.