Monday, December 1, 2008

Brain Waves Shed Light on Autism and Language

Brain Waves Shed Light on Autism and Language
Lindsey Tanner
Globe and Mail, December 1st, 2008

Report by: Shauna Garelick


A new discovery that might help researchers provide parents with an earlier diagnosis for children exhibiting autistic tendencies is explained in this article from the Globe and Mail. Through testing on 64 children with autism from ages 6-15 years old, results showed that children with autism had a delayed response to sound by approximately half of a second. This translates to half of a second per syllable when spoken to. Because so many symptoms of autism are related to language and communication, this could provide an explanation as to why they have so much trouble communicating and interpreting speech and speech patterns. It is stated however that this is no more than preliminary research that looks promising.


This article is an excellent glimpse into the current research that is happening in the field of autism. It shows that new technology is having a significant impact on brain research. The study that was done while still in its early stages goes to show that sound has a profound impact on children with autism and perhaps if the condition is better understood, treatment and therapies could be more grounded in their theories that it is based on. Currently, therapies are all very experimental especially given the broad spectrum of the disorder. A question that arises however is that since there is such diversity among language and communication abilities of individuals with autism, is this reflective of the length of the delay? Furthermore, does the therapy that seems to be working on some level draw any parallels to this new discovery?


It is difficult to state whether or not this could impact my own teaching. However, perhaps it will help me to develop new strategies based on the possibility that this could be true. It does support the research as to the fact that music has a profound impact on individuals with autism. However, I am not sure why they are able to sort out musical meaning, but not speech? Perhaps this is because it is in some ways more difficult because they have to extract the tone and the words. Perhaps if people talked in a monotone manner then it would be easier to focus on just one aspect of speech. It does make me think of possible ideas that I could employ based on this new research. Furthermore it makes me draw a parallel to a different article that I blogged on earlier where Dr. Alfred Tomatis (2006) believed that people with autism had underdeveloped inner ears. Is it possible that these two ideas are related?

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