The brain mechanisms underpinning the establishment of early language acquisition in baby siblings of children with autism are still not clearly understood. Since the foundations of language acquisition are established before infants begin talking, efforts toward improving language outcomes should start in early infancy. The study is important as baby-friendly, acoustic training is offered to pre-verbal infants at familial risk for autism.
What are the goals of the study?
Younger siblings of children with autism are at higher risk for developing autism often showing language delays as early as 12 months of age. Within the group of siblings not diagnosed with autism, some will also have language delays. The Infancy Studies Laboratory has created an engaging interactive acoustic experience that helps baby siblings at familial risk improve their processing of rapidly presented acoustic information, thus developing better pre-language skills important for optimal language acquisition.
What will happen during the visit or online?
Baby-sibs will visit the lab at 4 months for a pre-training evaluation, followed by 6 weeks of once-a-week acoustic training. Follow-up visits will be at 7 and 9 months. During pre- and post-training, brain responses to speech and non-speech sounds will be measured with EEG via a soft sensor net “hat” placed on the baby’s head. Behavioral testing evaluates the development of the infant’s cognitive and language abilities. During training, babies will listen to pairs of sounds that become increasingly closer together and faster as the baby becomes better at discriminating them. The infant’s response will be measured by eye-tracking technology.
How will this help families?
Compromised language abilities and auditory processing deficits are frequent in individuals with autism. By offering interactive acoustic training at the pre-verbal stage we hope to be able to provide infants at familial risk for autism with the opportunity to optimize developing language as it is mounted and attain normative language skills.