Subclinical Communications and Vocalizations in Autism: Investigation by Video/Audio Surveillance, Eye Movements, and Evoked Potentials
Many individuals affected by autism never seem to be able to speak or to understand speech. Yet their families and therapists often suspect that such individuals “know” more than they can express, despite the skepticism of those who do not know the individual as well. This may be because such individuals actually do have internal thoughts, even internal “speech” of some kind, but they appear to be oblivious and mute because their communicative efforts are so fleeting or atypical that they are not recognized, except by people familiar with their behavior. In this study, the investigators applied four accepted and rigorous objective methods to try to determine if such individuals can “know” more than they seem to know, and can “express” more than they can express through traditional routes. The four methods used were: 1) intensive audio-video surveillance; (2) eye movement recording; (3) pupillary diameter monitoring; and (4) electrical activity recorded through the scalp, analyzed looking for a particular wave (the N400 wave). Phase 1 of this research attempted to establish the validity of the different measures by examining what they show in individuals with autism who can speak and communicate. Phase 2 tried to determine if a different set of participants, individuals with autism who have little or no speech, show some types of comprehension or expression on any or all of these measures in the course of trying to learn picture-word associations. This research could help motivate more concerted efforts to try to detect such abilities in individuals with autism who have little or no speech. Perhaps more importantly, this research could help to justify more aggressive efforts to explore alternative ways for such individuals to comprehend and to express themselves.
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