In human interaction, the success with which a person communicates with others depends on their ability to identify emotional signals from both verbal and non-verbal communication. Individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are characterized by social and communication difficulties, and the decoding of emotional signals is particularly challenging for them. This has negative consequences on their interactions with others in school, leisure, and career settings. The proposed study aims to examine the abilities of children with ASD to recognize emotional tones of voice – also known as affective prosody – as compared to typically developing (TD) children. Past findings are mixed, and although some studies have found intact performance among individuals with ASD (e.g. Lyons et al., 2014), it is possible that they rely on different underlying mechanisms in processing affective prosody compared to TD children. Our second objective is therefore to examine whether children with ASD have a stronger reliance on psychoacoustic abilities – including rapid auditory processing and pitch direction recognition – to identify emotional stimuli, as compared to TD children. Lastly, we will study whether auditory training targeting psychoacoustic abilities would improve affective prosody recognition among children with ASD. Forty children with ASD and 40 TD children between 10 to12 years old will be recruited. Participants’ psychoacoustic abilities and affective prosody recognition will be assessed in the pretest. We hypothesize that psychoacoustic abilities are stronger predictors of affective prosody recognition among children with ASD than among TD children. The ASD children will then be randomly assigned to two groups: one group will receive auditory training; the other will be an active control group that receives non-auditory training. Both groups will receive 12 hours of training via a mobile app. The children will be assessed again in the posttest. We hypothesize that only the auditory training group participants (but not the active control group participants) will show a significant improvement in their psychoacoustic abilities following the training; we further hypothesize that these improvements will lead to better affective prosody recognition in the posttest. In terms of significance, this proposal is an initial step in developing a novel evidence-based intervention for improving affective prosody recognition among children with ASD. It is hoped that by improving their ability to decode emotional signals in voices, children with ASD will be able to communicate more effectively with others, which may improve their quality of life throughout their lifespan.
|Effective start/end date||1/01/19 → 31/12/21|
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