The University of Calgary has engaged upon study of speech patterns and infant response to those patterns. Those studied were infant siblings of those within the autism spectrum. According to Jennifer Ference, a masters of science student in clinical psychology, “There may be differences in how young infants at risk of ASD perceive these rhythm patterns and these differences may help us to identify infants who might later exhibit ASD behaviours”. (Clues to Autism link)
Recently, some researchers from both Germany and England have found that the infant brain can discern emotion in voices and this in turn contributes to their development as far as prioritizing various environmental stimulus. (During Infancy The Human Brain Becomes Tuned To Voices And Emotional Tone Of Voice link)
This ability of the young infant brain to respond to emotional content is crucial to the development of a means of prioritizing various stimuli in the environment, and would seem to give important emotional feedback to the caregiver, thereby strengthening the bond between them.
Should this process not proceed normally, it might have implications for the development of autism (in which the individual has trouble deciphering emotional content in their environment). Furthermore, the findings in this study might ultimately lead to a means of indentifying children at risk for this disorder. (From Voice Sensitivity and Autism by Barry Thompson, MD MA)
The research on hearing has implications for both identifying autism and even treating it.
The researchers are on a good path, especially as I consider my own seventeen year old autistic daughter's hyperacusia. We noted that she had the atypical response to sounds when she was just a toddler and then we began to note that pain was part of her response to some sounds. She also has displayed the ability to hear things that no one else hears...until a few seconds later. Like a cell phone ringing and fighter jets approaching. Additionally, words and sounds triggered catatonic events for her during her time of worsening. (Hello, Dr. Wells)
In Musicophila, Dr. Sacks offers the idea that removal of normal auditory input might result in a hypersensitivity of the auditory cortex causing heightened powers of musical imagery - and sometimes auditory hallucinatory process. His focus is with music and how it is utilized and occupied in the brain of persons more typical. However, what is not lost where those who are affected with autism is concerned, is the fact that; sight perception, auditory perception, and other sense perception translates to unique and atypical understanding of all life experiences from the first stages in development. The idea that the auditory sense is profoundly unique in how it translates sound from earliest development, most likely even affecting physical well being, means that those within the spectrum have not benefitted from perceiving in the usual way from their earliest beginnings.