Sensory Symptoms and Processing of Nonverbal Auditory and Visual Stimuli in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Abstract

Atypical sensory responses are common in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). While evidence suggests impaired auditory–visual integration for verbal information, findings for nonverbal stimuli are inconsistent. We tested for sensory symptoms in children with ASD (using the Adolescent/Adult Sensory Profile) and examined unisensory and bisensory processing with a nonverbal auditory–visual paradigm, for which neurotypical adults show bisensory facilitation. ASD participants reported more atypical sensory symptoms overall, most prominently in the auditory modality. On the experimental task, reduced response times for bisensory compared to unisensory trials were seen in both ASD and control groups, but neither group showed significant race model violation (evidence of intermodal integration). Findings do not support impaired bisensory processing for simple nonverbal stimuli in high-functioning children with ASD.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health R01-DC006155 and R01-MH081023, with additional funding from 1T32 DC007361-03 (BK). Special thanks to the children and families who generously participated, and to Sophie Molholm and John S. Butler for help with implementation of the race model.

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Correspondence to Ralph-Axel Müller.

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Claire R. Stewart and Sandra S. Sanchez have contributed equally to this study.

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Stewart, C.R., Sanchez, S.S., Grenesko, E.L. et al. Sensory Symptoms and Processing of Nonverbal Auditory and Visual Stimuli in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord 46, 1590–1601 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-015-2367-z

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Keywords

  • Autism
  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Sensory integration
  • Bisensory facilitation
  • Sensory profile