Examining Affective Prosody Recognition among Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and the Effectiveness of an Auditory Intervention Using a Mobile App

Project: Research project

Project Details


In human interaction, the success with which a person communicates with others depends on the ability to identify emotional signals from both verbal and non-verbal communication. Individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are characterized by social and communication difficulties, and the decoding of emotional signals is particularly challenging for them. This has negative consequence on their interactions with others in school, leisure activities, and career settings. The proposed study aims to examine the impact of auditory training on improving recognition of emotional tones of voice – also known as affective prosody – among children with ASD. Some recent findings suggest that individuals with ASD may rely heavily on their psychoacoustic abilities to analyze perceptual differences between different emotional stimuli (e.g. Lyons et al., 2014). There is evidence suggesting that some psychoacoustic abilities – including rapid auditory processing (Demopoulos et al., 2015) and pitch direction recognition (Globerson et al., 2014) – are significantly correlated with affective prosody recognition performance among individuals with ASD. Therefore, we propose that interventions targeting the improvement of psychoacoustic abilities may benefit affective prosody recognition among individuals with ASD. In the proposed study, 40 children with ASD and 40 typically developing (TD) children between 10-12 years will be recruited. The psychoacoustic abilities and affective prosody recognition performance of the two groups will be assessed in the pretest. We hypothesize that psychoacoustic abilities are stronger predictors of affective prosody recognition among children with ASD than among TD children. The ASD children will then be randomly assigned to two groups: one group will complete 12 hours of computerized auditory training via a mobile app; the other will be an active control group that receives cognitive training unrelated to auditory perception. The children will be assessed again in the posttest. We hypothesize that only the auditory training group participants (not the active control group participants) will show a significant improvement in their psychoacoustic abilities following the training; we further hypothesize that these improvements will be significantly associated with better affective prosody recognition in the posttest. In terms of significance, this proposal is an initial step in developing an evidence-based intervention for improving affective prosody recognition among children with ASD. It is hoped that by improving their ability to decode emotional signals in voices, children with ASD will be able to communicate more effectively with others, which may improve their quality of life throughout their lifespan.

Funding Source: RGC - General Research Fund (GRF)
Effective start/end date01/01/1931/01/21


  • Autism spectrum disorders, mobile application, prosody, intervention


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