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November 24 2011

Contributing to the early detection of Rett syndrome: The potential role of auditory Gestalt perception

To assess whether there are qualitatively deviant characteristics in the early vocalizations of children with Rett syndrome, we had 400 native Austrian-German speakers listen to audio recordings of vocalizations from typically developing girls and girls with Rett syndrome. The audio recordings were rated as (a) inconspicuous, (b) conspicuous or (c) not able to decide between (a) and (b). The results showed that participants were accurate in differentiating the vocalizations of typically developing children compared to children with Rett syndrome. However, the accuracy for rating verbal behaviors was dependent on the type of vocalization with greater accuracy for canonical babbling compared to cooing vocalizations. The results suggest a potential role for the use of rating child vocalizations for early detection of Rett syndrome. This is important because clinical criteria related to speech and language development remain important for early identification of Rett syndrome.