Autism Corner: Auditory Processing Problems in Children on the Autism Spectrum
[Source: My Aspergers Child]
Asperger’s (AS), or High-Functioning Autism (HFA), has been described as a social/communication problem. Processing auditory information is a crucial component of social communication, and some children on the autism spectrum have problems processing this information. One problem occurs when the child hears speech sounds, but does not perceive the meaning of the sounds (e.g., if someone says the word ‘blew,’ the child might hear the sound clearly, but not understand the meaning). Sometimes the lack of speech comprehension is interpreted by parents and educators as a behavioral problem, when in fact the child simply isn’t able to retrieve the meaning at that moment.
The underlying reason for auditory processing problems in AS and HFA may originate in a part of the child’s brain. Research has shown that the hippocampus is neurologically immature in children on the autism spectrum. The hippocampus is responsible for sensory input, learning and memory. Information is transferred from the senses to the hippocampus where it is processed. Then, the information is transferred to the cerebral cortex for long-term storage. Due to the fact that auditory information is processed in the hippocampus, in children on the autism spectrum, the information may not be accurately transferred to long-term memory. In addition, auditory processing problems may be linked to other AS or HFA traits (e.g., anxiety, confusion in social situations, inattentiveness, etc.).
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