Objectives: The goal of our research is to investigate if an abnormal pattern of speech perception is a risk marker that can be used to facilitate an earlier diagnosis of language delay or an autism spectrum disorder. We will also investigate the presence of a predictive relationship between early measures of speech discrimination and subsequent behavior in high-risk infants.
Methods: EEG data was recorded from high-risk infant siblings and from no-risk infants at 7 months of age. After data collection, high-risk infants were randomly assigned to either the early intervention group or the no treatment group. All infants were re-assessed at 12 months of age. At both ages, English and Chinese syllable contrasts were each presented in an oddball paradigm to test discrimination.
Results: Preliminary results indicate that before 8-months of age, at-risk infants have different physiological responses to English speech syllables compared to no-risk infants. The mismatch negativity is significantly different between groups at electrode FZ. Compared to typically developing infants, high-risk infants continue to process English syllables differently at one year of age; however, both groups of infants continue to process Chinese syllables similarly. As a group, participation in a relationship-based form of early intervention did not normalize speech-evoked responses to English syllables at one year of age.
Conclusions: Taken together, these results may indicate that some infants who will develop autism have an auditory processing disorder that hinders the acquisition of critical language skills.