KU News Release

Jan. 26, 2011
Contact: Karen Henry, Life Span Institute, 785-864-0756

KU autism discovery on Autism Speaks’ top 10 list

More Information

LAWRENCE — Autism Speaks, the largest North American autism advocacy and science organization, called the discovery that children with autism have a unique vocal signature one of the top 10 autism research achievements in 2010.

University of Kansas Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Studies Steven Warren co-authored the study of pre-verbal children’s vocalizations. Using a new technology, the researchers analyzed multiple characteristics of vocalizations from thousands of hours of recordings of children in their natural environments.

The LENA (Language Environment Analysis) system correctly identified children with autism spectrum disorder diagnoses with 86 percent accuracy based on an analysis of several known characteristics of vocal development developed by the researchers.

Autism Speaks cited the potential for the portable, easy-to-use technology as an objective early screening and diagnosis tool for autism by physicians. The organization also suggested that LENA could assist speech-language professionals in predicting very young children’s later language development to guide them in the type and timing of therapeutic interventions.

Warren cautioned that the ultimate potential of this tool as a screening device remains to be determined by further research.

The study was headed by D. Kimbrough Oller, professor and chair of excellence in audiology and speech language pathology at the University of Memphis.

The study was published in the July 27, 2010, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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