Thursday, January 16, 2014

Sight and Sound in Children with Autism

The Journal of Neuroscience published research on the senses of sight and sound in children with autism.  Vanderbilt University researchers compared 32 typically developing children ages 6-18 years old with 32 high-functioning children with autism, matching the groups in almost every possible way including IQ.

These participants worked through many different tasks, mostly all computer generated. Researchers used different types of audiovisual stimuli such as simple flashes and beeps, more complex environmental stimuli like a hammer hitting a nail, and speech stimuli, and asked the participants to tell them whether the visual and auditory events happened at the same time.

The results indicated that:

  • children with autism have an enlargement in something known as the temporal binding window (TBW), meaning the brain has trouble associating visual and auditory events that happen within a certain period of time.
  • children with autism also showed weaknesses in how strongly they “bound” or associated audiovisual speech stimuli.
The researchers concluded that children with autism may try to compensate for their changes in sensory function by simply looking at one sense at a time (ie covering their ears during periods of over stimulation). This may be a strategy to minimize the confusion between the senses.

Watch the video below for examples of the confusion between the senses and how the research was conducted.

Reference:   Boerner, C. Vanderbilt study reveals senses of sight and sound separated in children with autism. Vanderbilt University.  Retrieved from the web on 1/15/14 at

Typical Classroom Sensory-Based Problem Behaviors & Suggested Therapeutic Interventions

By:  Ileana S. McCaigue OTR/L, IMC

Summary:  Download of suggested therapeutic interventions based on 12 different problem behavior categories

Find out more at

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