The ability of autistic children to orient themselves and respond to familiar and novel auditory stimuli: environmental, vocal, and musical sounds
Abstract: One of the most frequent observations that educators, clinicians and researchers make about autistic children is their unusual responsiveness to music and rhythm. The present study is designed to explore the ability of school-age children to respond overtly to familiar and novel auditory stimuli: environmental, vocal, and musical sounds. First, a literature review is given on the areas related to the experiment: (a) The development of diagnostic concepts for the syndrome of autism, (b) An outline of genetic, neurochemical, neurophysiological, and neuropathological causus of autism, (c) A typical, detailed behavioral profile of an autistic child, (d) A review of studies on stimulus overselectivity, (e) Basic facts on the ear and auditory perception, (f) A review on auditory evoked responses of autistic children, and (g) A review of studies on autism and music therapy. Then, the experiment on the ability of autistic children to orient themselves and respond overtly to various familiar and novel auditory stimuli is described and analyzed. Results showed a strong preference of autistic children to respond with movement, such as turmning their heads toward the speaker, turning their bodies or moving toward the speaker. There was an indication of weak preference toward the musical excerpts rather than the environmental and vocal sounds. The statistical analysis of the data showed a significant difference in the number of responses between younger and older school-age autistic children. No differences were found among male and female, or higher- and lower-functioning children.
Keyword(s): Autistic-child, auditory-stimuli, environmental-sounds, vocal-sounds, musical-sounds.