This study is being completed by a team of health researchers from the SPAN (Speech in Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders) Lab at the MGH Institute of Health Professions (MGH IHP) in Boston, MA. In this study, we want to understand how minimally and low-verbal autistic children perceive speech sounds, and then to see if that is related to their own speech production and expressive language abilities.
What are the goals of the study?
We hypothesize that, if some kids can’t hear the difference between similar-sounding words like “ball” and “doll”, maybe they can’t learn to pronounce words accurately and this interferes with their being able to learn spoken language.
What will happen during the visit or online?
We created a tablet-based video game to help us answer these questions, where children sort pictures into categories. It includes a purely visual version of the task as well as an auditory version, so that we can tell if children have auditory processing issues only or whether their challenges also extend to visual stimuli.
Prospective participants will be assessed in our lab in Charlestown, MA with a variety of measures that document their speech, language, social, and nonverbal IQ skills. They will then be given the tablet game to play. The visits will be broken down into two 2-hour visits. All assessments and game play will be audio-and videotaped for later analysis.
During the visits, children’s parents will also be asked to complete a series of questionnaires that document demographics, developmental history, and current levels of community functioning. Parents will also be asked to participate in an hour-long interview either in person or by zoom, whichever is most convenient for the parent.
For their time, participants will receive $25 for completion of the assessments and will get an additional sum of $50 once they have completed the whole study. Parking compensation will be provided for each visit to our Charlestown lab location.
How will this help families?
In our studies, we are interested in understanding why many children with autism don’t learn to talk on their own. Participation in this study would help our researchers better understand auditory perception in children with autism with the ultimate goal being to improve communication outcomes for children with autism at risk for being minimally verbal.