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Baby Lab

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Early sensitivity to sound and musical preferences and enjoyment in adolescents with autism spectrum disorders.

Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) frequently display unusual reactions to sound, ranging from idiosyncratic responses to avoidances. This atypical sensitivity often decreases over time, but little is known about how early avoidance of sounds might affect later enjoyment of auditory stimuli such as music. We surveyed children and adolescents with ASD, and an age-matched group of typically developing (TD) adolescents and the parents of both groups about early auditory sensitivities and musical experience, preferences, and enjoyment in later childhood and adolescence using an adaptation of the Queen’s University Music Questionnaire and the Salk and McGill Musical Inventory (SAMMI). Results showed that, although the group with ASD experienced much more auditory hypersensitivity than the TD group during childhood, there were no differences between groups in musical ability, memory, repro- duction, creativity, or interest and emotional responsivity to music in later childhood and adolescence; both groups displayed a similar variety of genres in their musical preferences, with the exception that more participants with ASD reported classical as their favorite musical genre. We suggest that this latter pattern may arise from their lesser use of music as a mark of social affiliation and peer-group bonding, or from the increased complexity of classical music relative to other genres. We conclude that early childhood hypersensitivities to sound do not have detrimental effects on later enjoyment of music, although children and adolescents with ASD may use music in ways that differ from their TD peers.