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Autism Slows Ability to Process Sounds

Autistic children may process sounds more slowly than normal children, which partially explains why they have problems related to communication.

"Twenty milliseconds does not sound like much," said lead researcher Dr. Timothy Roberts of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "But it means that these kids are on the 'el" [in the word elephant] while the rest of the world is on the 'phant.'"

Roberts and his colleagues, who used magnetoencephalography to measure 64 autistic children ages six to 15, found a delay of one-fiftieth of a second in sound processing compared to a control group of children without the disorder.

"Since we speak about four syllables a second," Roberts said, "the autistic brain, being slower to process syllables, could easily get to the point of being overloaded." He presented his report to the Radiological Society of North America, noting that the new technique could prove valuable as a screening method for young children.

Symptoms of autism include poor communication, repetitive behaviors, and avoidance of physical contact with other people. The disorder is believed to affect one in 150 children.

Labels: autism, sounds

Posted By: Aspen Education Group