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Prosody in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Is There

a Relationship Between Perception & Production?

Robin M. Arce

Monmouth University

Atypical prosodic productions of speech is a common
diagnostic criterion for individuals with Autism Spectrum
Disorder (ASD). The existing literature looking at both
prosody production and prosody perception, particularly in
individuals with autism is very limited. Much of the existing
literature only looks at perception or only looks at production,
with very few studies bridging and comparing the two.
This literature review was prepared as part of a larger
product to design a pilot study to explore prosody production
and prosody perception in children with Autism Spectrum

Prosody is how we vary pitch, loudness, rhythm, tempo or stress in
speech to convey different meanings.
For individuals with ASD, prosody is often difficult to understand,
produce, or imitate.
Prosody has been intensively studied in typically developing children
as an integral part of language acquisition.

Prosody-Voice Variables and ASD

McApline, Plexico, Plumb, & Cleary (2014) investigated the
prosodic characteristics in young verbal children (24-48 months)
diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Looked at the number of utterances that must be excluded from
speech samples in the ASD group of children compared to a
typically developing (TD) group, the type of prosodic characteristics
that are present in both groups, and whether or not children with
ASD are more likely to have greater than 10% of their utterances
coded as inappropriate for each of the Prosody-Voice (PV)
Used Prosody-Voice Screening Profile (PVSP) to analyze speech
ASD group had higher percentage of excluded utterances than
the TD group due to echolalia.
Inappropriate stress was observed more often in the ASD
Only significant Prosody-Voice variable between the two groups
of children was in STRESS.

Emotion Decoding and ASD

Intonation in School-Aged Children

Wells & Peppe (2003) used a comprehensive set of tasks
specifically designed to investigate in school-aged children with
and without communication deficits.
Aimed to overcome some of the limitations in earlier research on
children with speech and language impairment (SLI/LI).
Investigated whether and to what extent children with SLI have
difficulties with comprehension and production of different aspects
of intonation.
Also explored the relationship between intonation processing and
their performance on other linguistic levels such as segmental
phonology, language comprehension, expressive language and
nonverbal intelligence.
Results offered little support for their hypothesis that intonation
deficits underlie language difficulties in general.
LI group did not score significantly worse than the language
comprehension (LC) control group on any PEPS-C task.
Results also indicated that the LI groups performance was
significantly worse than that of the chronological age (CA) group
on the chunking input form tasks.

Few studies have been done on prosodic characteristics in

individuals with ASD.

Lindner & Rosen (2006) focused on emotion and examined

differences in the ability of children with Aspergers Syndrome
(AS) to decode emotion through facial expression, prosody and
verbal content in relation to their TD peers.

Heterogeneity of the LI group in the current study limits the

definitive conclusions that can be made in regards to external
validity about the relationship between intonational factors and
other levels of language or speech impairment.

Existing studies that have been conducted have only focused on

prosody production or prosody perception in this population; even
fewer on both prosodic aspects.

Significant findings indicate that children with AS have a more

difficult time decoding emotion from tone of voice than the TD

Results reveal that intonation difficulties may be present in

children with language impairments who present with a range with
a range of different speech and language profiles, including
children with and without accompanying speech output difficulties
and pragmatics problems.

Existing literature has looked at older children, adolescents, adults

and alternate populations such as those with aphasia, specific
language impairment or apraxia with very few on young children with

Perception and Production of Prosody

Paul, Augustyn, Klin, & Volkmar (2005) conducted a study
investigating the perception of prosody and the specific aspects
of prosodic production that result in the perception of oddness
in speakers with ASD.
Results suggest that speakers with ASD show differences from
TD peers in select areas of prosodic performance:
Both perception and production of pragmatic/affective or
emphatic stress
Both perception and production of appropriate stress patterns
appears to be difficult for speakers with ASD, regardless of the

Miss Arce has no relevant financial or nonfinancial relationships to disclose.

Prosody and Other Areas of Language

Group of children with ASD completed a battery of standardized
speech, language and non-verbal assessments related to receptive
grammar, expressive language, articulation/phonology, pragmatics,
non-verbal ability, prosody assessment and function and form tasks
(McCann, Peppe, Gibbon, OHare, & Rutherford (2007)).
Results suggest that prosody relates closely to language, with
receptive skills having the greatest relationship to prosody.
More research is needed to clarify whether prosodic impairments
are a direct result of language impairments, or vice versa, or an
autism-specific difficulty relating to some other factor.
Highlights: the importance of understanding prosody and its effects
on language because expressive prosodic disorders add additional
social and communication barriers for those children.

Selected References
Lindner, J.L., & Rosen, L.A. (2006). Decoding of emotion through
facial expression, prosody and verbal content in children and
adolescents with aspergers syndrome. Journal of Autism and
Developmental Disorders, 36, 769777.
McAlpine, A., Plexico, L.W., Plumb, A.M., & Cleary, J. (2014).
Prosody in young verbal children with autism spectrum disorder.
Contemporary Issues in Communication Science and Disorders, 41,
McCann, J., Peppe, S., Gibbon, F., OHare, A., & Rutherford, M.
(2007). Prosody and its relationship to language in schoolaged
children with highfunctioning autism. Int. J. Lang. Comm. Dis., 42(6),
682702. doi:
Paul, R., Augustyn, A., Klin, A., & Volkmar, F.R. (2005). Perception
and production of prosody by speakers with autism spectrum
disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 35(2), 205
Wells, B., & Peppe, S. (2003). Intonation abilities of children with
speech and language impairments. Journal of Speech, Language, and
Hearing Research, 46, 520.

Contact Information
Robin M. Arce
Monmouth University
337 Jarome St.
Brick, NJ 08724

T: 732-604-3637
E: s0529483@monmouth.edu