ARTICLE | doi:10.20944/preprints202309.1636.v1
Subject: Social Sciences, Language And Linguistics Keywords: Autism spectrum conditions; Atypical resource allocation; Listening effort; Pupillometry; Speech-in-noise recognition
Online: 26 September 2023 (03:10:24 CEST)
Purpose: School-age children with autism spectrum conditions (ASC) often experience difficulties in speech-in-noise (SiN) perception, leading to increased listening effort that impacts their well-being and academic performance. This study aimed to investigate the SiN processing challenges faced by Mandarin-speaking children with ASC and its impact on their listening effort. Methods: Participants completed sentence recognition tests in both quiet and noisy conditions, with a steady-state noise masker presented at 0 dB signal-to-noise ratio in the noisy condition. We compared recognition accuracy and task-evoked pupil responses from 23 Mandarin-speaking children with ASC to 19 age-matched neurotypical (NT) counterparts to gauge their behavioral performance and listening effort during these auditory tasks. Results: The ASC group demonstrated notably decreased accuracy in noise compared to their NT peers, suggesting poorer SiN perception. Pupillometric data further revealed significantly larger peak dilations in the ASC group than in the NT group under comparable conditions. Importantly, the ASC group's peak dilation in quiet mirrored the NT group's in noise. However, the ASC group exhibited shorter peak latencies and reduced mean dilations than the NT group in similar conditions. Such patterns indicate the ASC group might initially experience a heightened cognitive load but utilize fewer cognitive resources as the task continued, indicating an atypical allocation of cognitive resources and a potential tendency towards relatively superficial and automated auditory processing. Conclusion: Our findings highlight the unique SiN processing challenges children with ASC face, underscoring the importance of a nuanced, individual-centric approach for interventions and support.