Perception of Prosody in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Successful communication depends on both what is said and how something is said. This aspect of language is collectively referred to as prosody and is ubiquitous in human communication. Individuals with ASD demonstrate significant difficulties with at least one aspect of prosody. Not only are prosodic deficits likely to persist and affect long-term social and communicative competence in individuals with ASD, they also create stigmatizing barriers to social integration and acceptance, which directly impact their interpersonal relationships, professional opportunities, emotional development, and overall quality of life. Thus, accurate identification and effective interventions that target prosodic deficits are necessary to improve long-term social and communication outcomes for individuals with ASD. A current barrier to achieving this long-term goal is our limited understanding on perception of prosody in ASD. Currently, no objective measure is available to assess perception of prosody in this population. This knowledge gap has hindered practitioners from identifying specific receptive prosodic deficits, leaving them untreated. This study proposes to develop an eye-tracking paradigm to assess perception of specific prosodic cues in children with ASD. We will also assess participants using a range of proximal and distal measures to investigate relations between perception of specific prosodic cues and broader social communication skills. This work is expected to have an important functional impact in that we are targeting a specific mechanism that underlies broader social communication difficulties. Findings from this study will advance our current understanding of challenges that individuals with ASD experience in everyday communication, improve our ability to accurately identify receptive prosodic deficits, fuel the development of novel interventions to reduce persistent social communication challenges for this population, and enhance the quality of life for individuals with ASD.