Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Children With Autism Have Difficulty Recognizing Ordinary Words

Date:
May 7, 2007
Source:
University of Washington
Summary:
Young children with autism have a difficult time recognizing ordinary words such as ball, dog and cat and more of their brains are occupied with this kind of task compared to typically developing youngsters, according to new research.

New research indicates that young children with autism have a difficult time recognizing ordinary words and more of their brains are occupied with this kind of task compared to typically developing youngsters.

Related Articles


"Rather than becoming an expert in recognizing words, their brains slow down," said Patricia Kuhl, co-director of the University of Washington's Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences and an expert in how babies acquire language. "Because these children can't distinguish what should be a familiar word their brains work too hard and they are unable to focus on new words. When they can't understand a word, they miss everything else that follows in a sentence."

The research is part of an effort to understand why language disorders are a characteristic of children with autism as scientists begin to peer inside the brains of some of these children to understand what's behind their language deficits.

Kuhl will present findings that compare 19-to 30-month-old typically developing and autistic children during a keynote address Friday May 4 at the Sixth International Meeting for Autism Research in Seattle.

She and her colleagues placed caps fitted with 20 sensors on the heads of the children and recorded brain waves that "leaked through their scalp" as the babies listened to familiar words (ball, dog, cat, book) and words that would be unfamiliar (verb, pint, bide, rate). The children also were exposed to common words that were recorded and played backwards. Backwards words produce sound patterns that are not characteristic of any language.

The brains of typically developing infants responded with a unique pattern of activation for each of these types of words. The responses for known and unknown words were markedly different. With the backward words, the children's brains reacted as if they were hearing something totally different from the other types of words and gave a different signal, according to Kuhl, who is a professor of speech and hearing sciences. In addition, brain activity was focused in the temporal lobes of both hemispheres of the brain for each word type.

The children with autism, however, showed no difference in their responses between known and unknown words, meaning they couldn't differentiate between them. However, their brains did react to the backwards words, and the pattern of activity was somewhat similar to that of the typically developing children. Overall brain activity in the children with autism was more diffuse and not focused in the temporal lobes, indicating more of their brains were tied up trying to understand the words.

Earlier work by Kuhl showed dramatic differences in how children 32 to 52 months of age responded to a computer-generated warbling sound and "motherese," or baby talk, a speech form that is rich in phonemes. When given a choice by letting them turn their heads in one direction versus the other, normally developing children consistently preferred to listen to motherese, a near universal form of baby talk that is directed at infants and young children. Children with autism preferred the warble sound and chose it consistently.

Youngsters with the most serious symptoms of autism had a stronger preference for the warble than did higher functioning children with autism. Kuhl believes there is some good news for parents from these studies because there are indications that some autistic children are achieving some learning.

"One of the puzzles of autism is the variability of children with it," she said. "We believe the highest functioning autistic children have some recognition of phonemes (the basic sounds of a language). And this new study shows autistic toddlers can differentiate between backward words, which are not characteristic of a language, and real words. So some learning has gone on." "To crack the speech code children must be able to distinguish phonemes, understand known words and be able to decode the word order of a sentence in English or their native language."

Kuhl said researchers need better measures and tools such as magnetoencephalography, which is a non-invasive technology, to test and look inside the brains of children with autism.

"We'd like to know what kind of knowledge these children may have locked up in their brains. Children at the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum may have quite a bit. The first possible use of this research would be as a predictor of which children with autism might be responsive to treatment. With these tools we may be able to identify a part of the brain that is not responding, and that may suggest treatments by developing more targeted interventions."

The National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Child Health and Human Development and the Cure Autism Now Foundation supported the research.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Washington. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Washington. "Children With Autism Have Difficulty Recognizing Ordinary Words." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 May 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070504072621.htm>.
University of Washington. (2007, May 7). Children With Autism Have Difficulty Recognizing Ordinary Words. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070504072621.htm
University of Washington. "Children With Autism Have Difficulty Recognizing Ordinary Words." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070504072621.htm (accessed October 25, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

AP (Oct. 23, 2014) A scandal involving bogus classes and inflated grades at the University of North Carolina was bigger than previously reported, a new investigation found. (Oct. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) Feast your eyes on this gorgeous family-friendly resort. Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com
What Your Favorite Color Says About You

What Your Favorite Color Says About You

Buzz60 (Oct. 22, 2014) We all have one color we love to wear, and believe it or not, your color preference may reveal some of your character traits. In celebration of National Color Day, Krystin Goodwin (@kyrstingoodwin) highlights what your favorite colors may say about you. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) A medical team has for the first time given a man the ability to walk again after transplanting cells from his brain onto his severed spinal cord. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins