• Attention;
  • auditory-visual perception;
  • autistic disorder;
  • information processing;
  • intermodal processing;
  • language

Background:  This project examined the intermodal perception of temporal synchrony in 16 young children (ages 4 to 6 years) with autism compared to a group of children without impairments matched on adaptive age, and a group of children with other developmental disabilities matched on chronological and adaptive age.

Method:  A preferential looking paradigm was used, where participants viewed non-linguistic, simple linguistic or complex linguistic events on two screens displaying identical video tracks, but one offset from the other by 3 seconds, and with the single audio track matched to only one of the displays.

Results:  As predicted, both comparison groups demonstrated significant non-random preferential looking to violations of temporal synchrony with linguistic and non-linguistic stimuli. However, the group with autism showed an impaired, chance level of responding, except when presented with non-linguistic stimuli.

Conclusions:  Several explanations are offered for this apparently autism-specific, language-specific pattern of responding to temporal synchrony, and potential developmental sequelae are discussed.