Autism spectrum disorder could be detected early using "Attention to motherese speech"


eMediNexus    14 February 2023

A recent study published in JAMA Network Open revealed that a group of scientists looked into the possibility of using attention to motherese speech as a diagnostic feature for autism spectrum disorder and assessed its relationship with social skills and linguistic proficiency.


Motherese, also known as parentese, is a type of infant-directed speech that uses basic grammar, a slow rate of speech, exaggerated intonation, a high pitch, and a humorous manner to pique the interest of toddlers and babies.


The researchers in the current study included toddlers through community referrals or population-based screening. They used a checklist for newborn and toddler development that can identify autism spectrum disorder as early as one year. Up until the child turned three, evaluations were performed every nine to twelve months. Licensed psychologists conducted different evaluations and motherese eye-tracking tests.


The toddlers and their parents also took part in several assessments, including the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule. The toddlers were divided into five groups based on the findings: those with autism spectrum disorder, those with autism spectrum disorder symptoms, those with typical development delays, and those who were typical siblings of those with an autism spectrum disorder.


The findings indicated that children with and without autism spectrum disorder had significantly different attention to motherese speech. Autism spectrum disorder in toddlers was almost often accompanied by maternal attention.


Among the 653 toddlers participating in the eye-tracking studies, 64.62% had autism spectrum disorders, 15.93% had impairments unrelated to this condition, and 19.45% had normal development.


The study further showed that using a fixation level of 30% or less as a cutoff value for low attention to motherese speech in the traffic and technological paradigms yielded specificities of 98% and 96%, respectively, a positive predictive value of 94%, and sensitivity lower than 18% and 29%.


The results imply that paying close attention to motherese speech is an essential component of early development and may be helpful for early screening for autism spectrum disorder and instructive in developing a diagnosis and prognosis.


(Source: https://www.news-medical.net/news/20230213/Attention-to-motherese-speech-is-a-promising-early-diagnostic-marker-for-autism-spectrum-disorder.aspx)

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