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Speech and word learning in autism (Yan et al., 2021)

journal contribution
posted on 2021-10-27, 18:19 authored by Jinting Yan, Fei Chen, Xiaotian Gao, Gang Peng
Purpose: It has been reported that tone language–speaking children with autism demonstrate speech-specific lexical tone processing difficulty, although they have intact or even better-than-normal processing of nonspeech/melodic pitch analogues. In this early efficacy study, we evaluated the therapeutic potential of Auditory-Motor Mapping Training (AMMT) in facilitating speech and word output for Mandarin-speaking nonverbal and low-verbal children with autism, in comparison with a matched non–AMMT-based control treatment.
Method: Fifteen Mandarin-speaking nonverbal and low-verbal children with autism spectrum disorder participated and completed all the AMMT-based treatment sessions by intoning (singing) and tapping the target words delivered via an app, whereas another 15 participants received control treatment. Generalized linear mixed-effects models were created to evaluate speech production accuracy and word production intelligibility across different groups and conditions.
Results: Results showed that the AMMT-based treatment provided a more effective training approach in accelerating the rate of speech (especially lexical tone) and word learning in the trained items. More importantly, the enhanced training efficacy on lexical tone acquisition remained at 2 weeks after therapy and generalized to untrained tones that were not practiced. Furthermore, the low-verbal participants showed higher improvement compared to the nonverbal participants.
Conclusions: These data provide the first empirical evidence for adopting the AMMT-based training to facilitate speech and word learning in Mandarin-speaking nonverbal and low-verbal children with autism. This early efficacy study holds promise for improving lexical tone production in Mandarin-speaking children with autism but should be further replicated in larger scale randomized studies.

Supplemental Material S1. Word lists of six themes for picture naming test.

Supplemental Material S2. Video demonstrations of one trial for the two groups (MMLI training and SRT).

Supplemental Material S3. Five aspects of user experience.

Yan, J., Chen, F., Gao, X., & Peng, G. (2021). Auditory-Motor Mapping Training facilitates speech and word learning in tone language–speaking children with autism: An early efficacy study. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. Advance online publication.


This work was supported in part by Major Program of National Social Science Foundation of China Grant 18ZDA293; National Natural Science Foundation of China Overseas Collaboration Grant 31728009; Research Grants Council of Hong Kong General Research Fund Grant 15610321, awarded to Gang Peng; and Cangzhou Normal University Project xnjjw1907, awarded to Jinting Yan.