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Keywords:

  • autism;
  • infancy;
  • cry;
  • vocalizations;
  • acoustic analysis

This study examined differences in acoustic characteristics of infant cries in a sample of babies at risk for autism and a low-risk comparison group. Cry samples derived from vocal recordings of 6-month-old infants at risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD; n = 21) and low-risk infants (n = 18) were subjected to acoustic analyses using analysis software designed for this purpose. Cries were categorized as either pain-related or non-pain-related based on videotape coding. At-risk infants produced pain-related cries with higher and more variable fundamental frequency (F 0) than low-risk infants. At-risk infants later classified with ASD at 36 months had among the highest F 0 values for both types of cries and produced cries that were more poorly phonated than those of nonautistic infants, reflecting cries that were less likely to be produced in a voiced mode. These results provide preliminary evidence that disruptions in cry acoustics may be part of an atypical vocal signature of autism in early life. Autism Res 2012, ••: ••–••. © 2012 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.