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Auteur: Inge-Marie EIGSTI

From low to high: Simple processes and complex sociocommunicative difficulties in the autism spectrum disorders

Abstract/Résumé: The autism spectrum disorders are a set of serious neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by impairments in two interrelated domains: social interactions, and language and communication. Our understanding of the origin of language deficits in ASD has long focused on social deficits; many researchers have attributed language delays primarily to the lack of social interest. Research from our lab and others has complicated this picture. We have demonstrated that language impairments in ASD are at least partially driven by deficits in very low-level (core) cognitive, non-social, processes, which appear to cascade upwards and lead to more comprehensive deficits in both communicative and social processes. These low-level or core cognitive processes include 1) atypical strengths in auditory discrimination and 2) deficits in temporal coordination of motor movements. These motor movements are discussed in terms of models of embodied cognition, with the suggestion that motor movements are less effectively incorporated into language processing in ASD. We discuss how such models may help us to better understand ASD. The identification of core cognitive deficits may provide clues to the mechanisms underlying the symptom presentation in ASD.