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On the nature of the speech perception deficits in children with autism spectrum disorders

tPrevious studies have claimed to show deficits in the perception of speech sounds in autismspectrum disorders (ASD). The aim of the current study was to clarify the nature of suchdeficits. Children with ASD might only exhibit a lesser amount of precision in the perceptionof phoneme categories (CPR deficit). However, these children might further present an allo-phonic mode of speech perception, similar to the one evidenced in dyslexia, characterisedby enhanced discrimination of acoustic differences within phoneme categories. Allophonicperception usually gives rise to a categorical perception (CP) deficit, characterised by aweaker coherence between discrimination and identification of speech sounds. The per-ceptual performance of ASD children was compared to that of control children of the samechronological age. Identification and discrimination data were collected for continua ofnatural vowels, synthetic vowels, and synthetic consonants. Results confirmed that chil-dren with ASD exhibit a CPR deficit for the three stimulus continua. These children furtherexhibited a trend toward allophonic perception that was, however, not accompanied bythe usual CP deficit. These findings confirm that the commonly found CPR deficit is alsopresent in ASD. Whether children with ASD also present allophonic perception requiresfurther investigations.