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September 18, 2019

CHOP study finds nonverbal autistic kids slower to process sounds

Health News Autism
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia autism study Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Researchers at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia examined 105 patients, aged 8-12 and found that minimally verbal/nonverbal autistic children had longer latency delays in auditory processing.

In the first study of its kind, researchers at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia used neuroimaging to examine auditory processing in children with nonverbal autism. 

The study, published in Molecular Autism, examined 105 patients, aged 8-12, that were recruited through the children's hospital. The cohort included 16 minimally verbal/nonverbal autistic children, 55 children with verbal autism, and 34 neurotypical patients that were used as a control group. 

In order to conduct the study, researchers developed protocol to help the autistic patients cope with the neuroimaging technique, magnetocephalography (MEG), as it can cause sensory overload in patients with autism. 

The authors of the study found that longer latency delays in auditory processing were associated with poorer language ability. The children with minimally verbal or nonverbal communication had delayed responses to simple auditory tones.

Researchers said this study could also lead to the use of MEG markers to understand language development and treatment options for autistic children on an individual basis.  

Previous research has shown that children with autism have prolonged or delayed auditory processing, but no previous research has studied autistic children that are nonverbal or use minimal verbal communication. Of the number of kids diagnosed with autism, 25-30% are nonverbal or minimally verbal. 

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