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Aetiology of speech sound errors in autism

McKeever, Louise and Cleland, Joanne and Delafield-Butt, Jonathan (2018) Aetiology of speech sound errors in autism. In: Speech Production and Perception. Peter Lang International Academic Publishers, Berlin. (In Press)

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In looking at speech perception and production it is vital we understand variation in different populations in order to understand variation in what is perceived as typical speech development; develop bio-markers; and provide effective methods for diagnosis and intervention where required. Research suggests that people with autism experience higher rates of speech sound errors (SSEs) than their peers (Cleland, Gibbon, Peppé, O’Hare, & Rutherford, 2010; Shriberg, Paul, Black, & Santen, 2011), yet the reasons why are unknown. This chapter takes an in-depth look at the current literature on SSEs produced by people with autism, from young children to young adults. It explores why these higher rates occur, moving beyond the previous debate of whether they exist at all in this population. Recent studies using detailed articulatory analysis show that children with autism exhibited significantly higher rates of SSEs than typically developing (TD) children, these are discussed in detail alongside a critique of the methods historically used to assess SSEs in this population. This chapter proposes two perspectives that may account for these higher rates of SSEs in autism: a) the speech attunement framework and b) deficits in speech motor control. It explores how both of these perspectives may intersect to produce SSEs in people with autism. Both are discussed in relation to the comorbidities of speech perceptual issues and motor deficits often found in people with autism. Suggestions are made for future research using sensitive articulatory analysis of assessing speech such as ultrasound tongue imaging or electropalatography. This chapter highlights the need to look equally at both linguistic and motor skills in children with autism to describe accurately the range of coginitive and neurophysiological processes that may be affecting the production of speech.