Imagine living in a world where everyone looks like they’re lip-syncing — and doing a horrible job at it. A recent study by Ryan Stevenson at the University of Toronto seems to show that individuals with autism may be living in such a world.

The study began at the Vanderbilt Brain Institute in Nashville, Tennessee. In this study of 64 children (ages six to 18), researchers found that, “individuals with autism have difficulties processing the timing of what they hear and what they see, often reporting two events as synchronous when they are quite far out of sync,” says Stevenson. Researchers were able to test whether the child perceived what they saw and what they heard as one event, or two separate events. The time difference between perceiving what is seen and what is heard makes it less likely to accurately perceive audiovisual speech, which can make it difficult to have normal social interactions.

“One of the fundamental building blocks needed to have success in social communication is the ability to accurately perceive what is going on around you. If you have difficulties perceiving the world around you, it’s intuitive that you may also have difficulties interacting with that world, and the other people in it,” says Stevenson. Stevenson and his team are in the process of designing a computer program that aims to help with sensory abilities and in turn improve social interactions for individuals with autism.


With files from U of T News