Word Processing in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders: Evidence From Event-Related Potentials Purpose This investigation was conducted to determine whether young children with autism spectrum disorders exhibited a canonical neural response to word stimuli and whether putative event-related potential (ERP) measures of word processing were correlated with a concurrent measure of receptive language. Additional exploratory analyses were used to examine whether the ... Research Article
Research Article  |   December 20, 2017
Word Processing in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders: Evidence From Event-Related Potentials
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Micheal Sandbank
    Department of Special Education, University of Texas at Austin
  • Paul Yoder
    Special Education Department, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
  • Alexandra P. Key
    Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development and Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN
  • Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication.
    Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication. ×
  • Correspondence to Micheal Sandbank: msandbank@austin.utexas.edu
  • Editor-in-Chief: Julie Liss
    Editor-in-Chief: Julie Liss×
  • Editor: Bharath Chandrasekaran
    Editor: Bharath Chandrasekaran×
Article Information
Development / Special Populations / Autism Spectrum / Normal Language Processing / Speech / Research Articles
Research Article   |   December 20, 2017
Word Processing in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders: Evidence From Event-Related Potentials
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 2017, Vol. 60, 3441-3455. doi:10.1044/2017_JSLHR-S-17-0011
History: Received January 9, 2017 , Revised May 1, 2017 , Accepted July 10, 2017
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 2017, Vol. 60, 3441-3455. doi:10.1044/2017_JSLHR-S-17-0011
History: Received January 9, 2017; Revised May 1, 2017; Accepted July 10, 2017

Purpose This investigation was conducted to determine whether young children with autism spectrum disorders exhibited a canonical neural response to word stimuli and whether putative event-related potential (ERP) measures of word processing were correlated with a concurrent measure of receptive language. Additional exploratory analyses were used to examine whether the magnitude of the association between ERP measures of word processing and receptive language varied as a function of the number of word stimuli the participants reportedly understood.

Method Auditory ERPs were recorded in response to spoken words and nonwords presented with equal probability in 34 children aged 2–5 years with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder who were in the early stages of language acquisition. Average amplitudes and amplitude differences between word and nonword stimuli within 200–500 ms were examined at left temporal (T3) and parietal (P3) electrode clusters. Receptive vocabulary size and the number of experimental stimuli understood were concurrently measured using the MacArthur–Bates Communicative Development Inventories.

Results Across the entire participant group, word–nonword amplitude differences were diminished. The average word–nonword amplitude difference at T3 was related to receptive vocabulary only if 5 or more word stimuli were understood.

Conclusions If ERPs are to ever have clinical utility, their construct validity must be established by investigations that confirm their associations with predictably related constructs. These results contribute to accruing evidence, suggesting that a valid measure of auditory word processing can be derived from the left temporal response to words and nonwords. In addition, this measure can be useful even for participants who do not reportedly understand all of the words presented as experimental stimuli, though it will be important for researchers to track familiarity with word stimuli in future investigations.

Supplemental Material https://doi.org/10.23641/asha.5614840

Acknowledgments
This research was funded by a grant from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (R01DC006893), which was awarded to Paul Yoder, and a grant from the National Institutes of Health (U54HD083211), which was awarded to Elisabeth Dykens. The first author was supported by a grant from the Office of Special Education Programs (H325D100034A), which was awarded to Ann Kaiser. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health or the Office of Special Education Programs. We are very grateful to our wonderful staff (Elizabeth Gardner, Nicole Thompson, Paula McIntyre, Ariel Schwartz, Tricia Paulley, and Kristen Fite) and to the families who trust us with their precious children. We would also like to acknowledge Magdalene Jacobs for her extremely useful assistance during the final stages of this work.
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