Children with autism pay just as much attention to speech that doesn’t match lip movements as to speech in which sight and sound are coordinated, according to a new study1. Typical children prefer speech in which the sensory cues are in sync.
Some people with autism have trouble learning to speak and understand words. Some people with the condition have minimal verbal skills or don’t speak at all. The new work suggests that these problems may be partially rooted in an inability to integrate sight and sound when other people talk, and inattention to these cues.
“There are underlying mechanisms that bring about these sets of skills that then translate into language learning,” says lead researcher Giulia Righi, assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. “We really need to understand from a mechanistic view how these abilities come about.”