Relationship between atypical sensory processing and development of autism-like symptoms: DEVELOPMENT OF AUTISM SYMPTOMS

Jeanne Guiraud

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) display deficits in social communication and repetitive and stereotyped behaviours, including atypical sensory behaviours. ASD cannot be diagnosed before 3 years old. However, earliest interventions are believed to provide the best outcomes. It is therefore necessary to evidence early markers of ASD. Many theorists argue that hypersensitivity to environmental stimulation leads to the development of ASD. The aim of the study was thus to investigate the relationship between early hypersensitivity and development of ASD-like symptoms. Auditory processing was assessed in 49 nine months old babies at low and high risk of developing ASD using electroencephalography. Two types of hypersensitivity were measured: the ability to discriminate subtle changes in sounds and responses to noise. Assessed ASD-like symptoms were atypical verbal and non-verbal communication skills and repetitive behaviours at 24 months old. Babies at high risk who developed typical language skills had increased ability to discriminate sounds, compared to babies at high risk with poor language skills and babies at low risk (i.e., with typical language skills). Hypersensitive sound discrimination might therefore help babies at high risk develop good language skills. The better the ability of babies at high risk was to discriminate sounds, the better their non-verbal communication skills at a later age. This relationship was not significantly different in babies at low risk, suggesting that the ability to discriminate sounds might be helpful in typical and atypical development of non-verbal communication skills. Babies at high risk who had enhanced responses to noise went on to develop repetitive behaviours.
Repetitive behaviours might therefore help over-aroused babies to self soothe. The current study did not show a causal relationship between early hypersensitivity and development of ASD. Nevertheless, early markers of hypersensitivity could be used to index development of some ASD symptoms.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015


  • Autism
  • Development
  • Sensory processing

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