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Autism Spectrum Disorders Health Center

Sight, Sound Out of Sync in Kids With Autism: Study

Researcher compares the processing delay to a poorly dubbed movie
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Wallace said that normally it takes the brain about a quarter of a second to identify sights and sounds that belong together. But the researchers found that for kids with autism it takes about twice as long, about half a second. As a result, he said, the brain can't successfully pair sights and sounds. That problem seemed to be most acute for speech.

"It's going to create a very confusing and overwhelming view of the world around them," he said.

Experts who were not involved in the research said the results were intriguing.

"It's pretty fascinating. This type of information goes a long way in helping parents understand their children's problems," said Dr. Patricia Manning-Courtney, a pediatrician who treats children with autism at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Ohio.

Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Steven & Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York in New Hyde Park, said the findings not only suggest a new line of clinical research investigation but may also suggest a novel treatment approach focusing on perceptual training.

"Although it is premature to know whether the findings from this study will indeed lead to one or more new avenues of clinically significant research, the results do raise some interesting and potentially important questions about the relationship between autism spectrum disorders and deficits in the processing of complex sensory stimuli," said Adesman.

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