Syracuse University Professor to research children with autism

Feb 21, 2014

A Syracuse University professor is beginning a study of the sensory issues many children with autism face.  More than 70 percent of autistic children have sensory issues, like extreme sensitivity to sound or light. 

Natalie Russo, of Syracuse University’s psychology department, says there isn’t much research on the issue and she’s hoping a study funded with a $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health will find out how these issues fit in with a disorder that affects 1 out of every 88 children.

"We’ll put electrodes on kids heads, and I measure brain activities while they do different computer-based tasks, and I try to relate those two things together and then relate it back to the diagnostic symptoms we see in kids with autism,” Russo said.

She says many children with autism do not exhibit the same symptoms.

“Some kids have auditory issues, some have touch related issues, some look at things out of the corner of their eye," Russo said. "So there’s a large heterogeneity, a lot of variability it the way those kids with autism process sensory information. So we don’t have really strong understanding of how those pattern together and whether there are subgroups of kids with autism that show strengths in one, weaknesses in another area.”

Russo expects to start the five-year study later this year and says results could have a big impact on families and kids coping with sensory issues.

"Hopefully one day the results of the study can help with earlier diagnosis," Russo explained. "If we can find patterns that are specific to kids with autism then we can use it for diagnostic purposes, but right now its just to understand how they perceive the world around them so that we can help tailor interventions to them, or find out what they really need."