Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 48, Issue 1, pp 72–82 | Cite as

Categorical Speech Perception in Adults with Autism Spectrum Conditions

  • Mary E. Stewart
  • Alexandra M. Petrou
  • Mitsuhiko Ota
Original Paper


This study tested whether individuals with autism spectrum conditions (n = 23) show enhanced discrimination of acoustic differences that signal a linguistic contrast (i.e., /g/ versus /k/ as in ‘goat’ and ‘coat’) and whether they process such differences in a less categorical fashion as compared with 23 IQ-matched typically developed adults. Tasks administered were nonverbal IQ, verbal IQ, 5 language measures, a speech perception task, and the ADOS. The speech perception task measured the discrimination of paired exemplars along the /g/-/k/ continuum. Individuals with autism spectrum conditions did not show enhanced discrimination of speech perception. Categorical speech perception was correlated with verbal ability of reading, lexical decision, and verbal IQ in individuals with autism spectrum conditions.


Categorical speech perception Autism Auditory discrimination Language Phoneme 



We would like to thank first and foremost all the individuals who took part in this study. Andrea Clark for pilot data relating to this study.


This research was supported by a School of Life Sciences, Heriot-Watt doctoral studentship to Alexandra M. Petrou.

Author Contributions

MES conceptualised the study, co-wrote the paper, and commented on draft versions of the manuscript, and had complete access to the study data that support the publication. AMP conceptualised the study, collected the data, analysed the data, co-wrote the paper, commented on draft versions of the manuscript, and had complete access to the study data that support the publication. MO conceptualised the study, co-wrote the paper, and commented on draft versions of the manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary E. Stewart
    • 1
  • Alexandra M. Petrou
    • 1
    • 2
  • Mitsuhiko Ota
    • 3
  1. 1.Heriot-Watt UniversityEdinburghScotland
  2. 2.Institute of NeuroscienceNewcastle UniversityNewcastle Upon TyneUK
  3. 3.Philosophy, Psychology and Language SciencesUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghScotland

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