Brief Report: A Comparison of Statistical Learning in School-Aged Children with High Functioning Autism and Typically Developing Peers
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Individuals with autism spectrum disorders have impairments in language acquisition, but the underlying mechanism of these deficits is poorly understood. Implicit learning is potentially relevant to language development, particularly in speech segmentation, which relies on sensitivity to transitional probabilities between speech sounds. This study investigated the relationship between implicit learning and current language abilities in school-aged children with high functioning autism and a history of language delay (n = 17) and in children with typical development (n = 24) using a well-studied artificial language learning task. Results suggest that high functioning children with autism (HFA) and TD groups were equally able to implicitly learn transitional probabilities from a lengthy stimulus stream. Furthermore, task performance was not strongly associated with current language abilities. Implications for implicit learning research in HFA are discussed.
KeywordsAutism Language Implicit learning Statistical learning Speech segmentation
Research supported by grant #446762 from the University of Connecticut Research Foundation to I.M.E. We thank Julia Evans and Jenny Saffran for sharing their stimuli. We are particularly grateful to staff and students at the Perkins school in Lancaster, MA, and the William E. Norris Elementary School, in Southampton, MA, for facilitating recruitment. Portions of this work were presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research in Philadelphia, PA, 2010.
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