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Autism Vocal Screen

August 5, 2010

A new voice-analysis technique may help doctors screen young children for signs of autism.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
The voice of autism…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

For years, scientists have known that children with autism vocalize differently than their non-autistic peers. But it’s been hard to turn that into usable data. Now, University of Kansas developmental psychologist Steven Warren and his colleagues have tested out a new, computerized system that analyzed nearly 1500 recordings of 232 children. It focused mainly on differences in the formation of distinct syllables.

STEVEN WARREN (University of Kansas):
There was a clear difference in the vocal patterns of young children with autism, as compared to typically developing children, or children who had a language delay but not autism.

HIRSHON:
Warren says the system identified autistic kids with about 86 percent accuracy. That’s good enough for a screening, which could then lead to an in-depth evaluation. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.