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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.


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.

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.