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More Is Less: Pitch Discrimination and Language Delays in Children with Optimal Outcomes from Autism



The autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are neurodevelopmental disorders diagnosed behaviorally but associated with differences in brain development. Individuals with ASD exhibit superior auditory perceptual skills, which may correlate with ASD symptomatology, particularly language skills. We describe findings from individuals diagnosed with ASD before age five, who now have no symptoms (e.g., having optimal outcomes). Unlike an ASD group, which shows heightened pitch discrimination, the Optimal Outcome group's abilities do not differ from those of typically developing controls. Furthermore, pitch discrimination is associated with both current autism symptomatology and early-language milestones. Findings illuminate processes associated with resolution of autism. We also discuss a specific mechanism by which heightened auditory discrimination leads to language delays in ASD. Autism Res 2013, 6: 605–613. © 2013 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.