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This study examines electrocortical activity associated with visual and auditory sensory perception and lexical-semantic processing in nonverbal (NV) or minimally-verbal (MV) children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Currently, there is no agreement on whether these children comprehend incoming linguistic information and whether their perception is comparable to that of typically developing children. Event-related potentials (ERPs) of 10 NV/MV children with ASD and 10 neurotypical children were recorded during a picture-word matching paradigm. Atypical ERP responses were evident at all levels of processing in children with ASD. Basic perceptual processing was delayed in both visual and auditory domains but overall was similar in amplitude to typically-developing children. However, significant differences between groups were found at the lexical-semantic level, suggesting more atypical higher-order processes. The results suggest that although basic perception is relatively preserved in NV/MV children with ASD, higher levels of processing, including lexical- semantic functions, are impaired. The use of passive ERP paradigms that do not require active participant response shows significant potential for assessment of non-compliant populations such as NV/MV children with ASD.


This article was originally published in PLoS one, available at doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0161637.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0).



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