International Meeting for Autism Research: Prosody in School-Age Children with ASD

Prosody in School-Age Children with ASD

Thursday, May 20, 2010
Franklin Hall B Level 4 (Philadelphia Marriott Downtown)
11:00 AM
E. Schoen , Yale Child Study Cnt., Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT
R. Paul , Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT
L. Berkovits , Yale Child Study Center, New Haven, CT
F. R. Volkmar , Child Study Center, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT
Background: Prosodic deficits in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have been consistently reported in the literature (Kanner, 1943; Paul, 1987; Shriberg et al., 2001). However, the majority of these studies report solely on prosodic production. Little information is known regarding the understanding of prosody in individuals with ASD.
Objectives: The purpose of this study is to compare the production and perception of prosodic information in children with high-functioning autism (HFA) and children with typical development (TD).
Methods: Participants, ages 9-17, underwent extensive cognitive, behavioral, and language testing to establish research diagnoses of autism. Each participant completed the Prosody Protocol (PP). The PP, adapted from Peppé and McCann (2003), consisted of 8 computer-based tasks examining grammatical, pragmatic and affective prosody. Four of the tasks examined the participant’s production of the aforementioned prosodic domains while the other four tasks examined the participant’s understanding of each prosodic domain.
Results: Preliminary results indicate decreased accuracy in understanding and producing prosodic information in children with HFA compared to the TD group. Children with HFA have greater difficulty in understanding and using grammatical and pragmatic prosody as compared to their age-matched peers. No differences in affective prosody were found.
Conclusions: Although children with HFA demonstrate age-appropriate language relative to syntax and grammar, they continue to show difficulties with both their production and perception of prosodic information. Although affect is usually thought to be impacted in this population, the current results suggest that it is the linguistic aspects of prosody that are more difficult for these high-functioning individuals, at least in the structured tasks presented here. Their inability to use and understand the linguistic import of prosody may negatively impact social, academic and vocational success. Having a better understanding of specific prosodic difficulties could help interventionists design a more effective treatment program.
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