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Relations among detection of syllable stress, speech abnormalities and communicative ability in adults with autism spectrum disorders

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Purpose: To date the literature on perception of affective, pragmatic and grammatical prosody abilities in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has been sparse and contradictory. Interestingly, the primary perception of syllable stress within the word structure, which is crucial for all prosody functions, remains relatively unexplored in ASD. Thus, the current study explored syllable stress perception sensitivity and its relation to speech production abnormalities and communicative ability in adults with ASD. 

Method: A same-different syllable stress perception task using pairs of identical four-syllable words was delivered to 42 adults with/without high-functioning ASD, matched for age, to investigate primary speech perception ability in ASD. Speech production and communicative ability in ASD was measured using the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule. 

Results: As predicted, the results showed that adults with ASD were less sensitive in making judgments about syllable stress relative to controls. Also, partial correlations revealed a key association of speech production abnormalities with stress perception sensitivity, rather than communicative ability per se. 

Conclusions: Our findings provide empirical evidence for deficits on primary syllable stress perception in ASD and its role on socio-communicative difficulties. This information could facilitate the development of effective interventions for speech and language therapy and social communication.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-215
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Early online date1 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016


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