Sensory processing differences have long been seen as a meaningful component of ASD and were recently recognized as a key diagnostic feature. Past research has investigated sensory processing differences in ASD in a number of ways, including by self-report, parent-report, behavioral observation, and measurement of the autonomic nervous system (responsible for our body’s “fight or flight” response to a stressor, such as aversive sensory input).
Learn more about Sensory Processing and Cognitive Functioning in ASD- Currently Enrolling
In our previous work, we found that individuals with autism process tastes and smells differently from their peers. Furthermore, these differences may be related to their likes and dislikes of certain foods. In this study, we are building on these findings to better understand sensory functions in children with autism spectrum disorders and their families. We hope this study will help to advance autism research and clinical practice in several ways.
Learn more about Taste Smell and Feeding Behavior in Autism- A Quantitative Traits Study
How do children and adolescents see different things in the world around them? There is so much visual information in the world and our brains work to efficiently process what is most important. Our brains are tuned to process different types of images with varying levels of precision, which helps us see what is necessary and filter out what is not. Previous research suggests that children with autism may have difficulty processing faces, but that they may show a strength in processing other types of visual information.
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One of the earliest red flags for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is when a child does not respond to his or her name being called. Decreased social orienting is often one of parents’ first concerns, and children with ASD continue to have particular difficulty orienting to speech and other social sounds throughout their life. In contrast, they often don’t have as much trouble orienting to nonsocial environmental sounds. Successfully turning toward and paying attention to speech and people is critical for early social development and for later communication, social skills, and learning. In this study, we are examining several key components of this social orienting difficulty in children with ASD.
Learn more about Auditory Spatial Attention in ASD
The ability to detect speech in noisy environments is critical for effective communication. Indeed, the speech we hear is frequently accompanied by background noise, such as other people talking or noises in the environment (e.g., traffic, fans, music). Typically, our brains help us to separate the relevant auditory signal (speech) from this background noise, by sending information from the brain back to the inner ear.
Learn more about Efferent Feedback and Hearing-in-Noise Perception in Autism
Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to watch television when the auditory and visual information are out of sync? Our brains use temporal cues to link information coming from different sources. Individuals with autism often have difficulty combining information from different sources, and part of this difficulty may come from problems using temporal information. Among other things, difficulties in this area can have a significant impact on communication (e.g., quickly picking up on which person in a group is talking to you).
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Recent research suggests that people with autism have difficulty integrating information from multiple sensory inputs. Our previous studies showed that children with autism have difficulty using visual information, such as lip movements and gestures, to help with language comprehension. The current study builds on these findings by examining brain activity associated with auditory and visual processing in autism.
Learn more about Brain Activity During Speech Comprehension in Autism