Autistic people frequently experience sensory processing difficulties. For many on the autism spectrum, such difficulties can significantly impact important functions and quality of life. We are only beginning to understand the neural mechanisms of atypical sensory processing. However, one established way to measure certain levels of auditory processing is with auditory brainstem responses (ABR). While ABR has been primarily hypothesized in the current literature as a means of early detection/diagnosis in autism, additional research is needed to determine the ABR’s utility in examining sensory processing in this population. Thus, we evaluated ABR in 19 young children with autism during various stimulus (click and tone burst) and intensity conditions by comparing ABR waveform characteristics, such as absolute peak latencies and amplitudes, inter-peak latencies (IPL), inter-aural latency differences (IAD) between age-matched groups of autistic and typically developing children. We also examined within ear waveform cross correlations and inter-aural cross correlations (IACC) to assess replicability and synchrony of participants’ auditory brainstem responses. Though we observed longer peak latencies (esp. wave III and V) and IPLs in both the autism and typically developing groups in different conditions, there were no statistically significant results in cross correlation or IACC. These results indicate that at the level of the brainstem, auditory processing may differ slightly, but is mostly similar between autistic and typically developing children. In terms of sensory processing in autism, future studies should examine the connection between ABR responses and behavioral measures of sensory processing, as well as function at more central levels of the auditory system.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Communication Disorders



Date Submitted


Document Type





auditory brainstem response, autism, auditory processing, sensory processing



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Education Commons