Date of Award

2015

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Speech Pathology Honours

School

School of Psychology and Social Science

Faculty

Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science

First Advisor

Associate Professor Natalie Ciccone

Abstract

Background: Early interventions for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) have shown positive gains in children who enter therapy at a young age. However, commencement of early intervention is often hindered by challenges with diagnosis. Due to the complex nature of ASD, the age of detection can range from 2 years old into adulthood. This highlights the need for methods of early detection. Previous research has found infants at risk for ASD to present atypical cry characteristics, possibly as a result from damage to the brainstem. In particular, measures of fundamental frequency appear to be the most sensitive to variations between infants at risk for ASD and those at low risk.

Objectives: The present study is an examination of cries between infant’s at high risk and low risk for ASD, to investigate if there is an acoustic measure which could act as an early risk indicator.

Methods: 150 cries from 50 12 month old infants were examined for differences in fundamental frequency, intensity, formant frequencies. A further aim was to investigate perceived levels of distress felt by infants and its relationship to the reason for distress.

Main Results: There were no significant differences between the high risk and low risk cohorts on any of the acoustic measures. Distress ratings indicated that fatigue and unpleasant stimulation may impact the level of perceived distress observed by a listener. Conclusion: As it stands, infant cries may hold important diagnostic information, however the variance in methodologies between studies makes it difficult to corroborate findings. Increased reporting on methods of acoustic analysis and taking into account infant position and reason for distress would strengthen the finding sin future studies.

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