Emotional facial and vocal expressions during story retelling by children and adolescents with high-functioning autism

UMMS Affiliation

Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center; Shriver Center

Publication Date


Document Type



Adolescent; Autistic Disorder; Communication; *Emotions; *Facial Expression; Humans; Infant; Linguistics; Male; Nonverbal Communication; Pilot Projects; *Social Behavior; Speech; Videotape Recording; *Voice; Young Adult


Mental Disorders | Pediatrics | Speech and Hearing Science


PURPOSE: People with high-functioning autism (HFA) have qualitative differences in facial expression and prosody production, which are rarely systematically quantified. The authors' goals were to qualitatively and quantitatively analyze prosody and facial expression productions in children and adolescents with HFA.

METHOD: Participants were 22 male children and adolescents with HFA and 18 typically developing (TD) controls (17 males, 1 female). The authors used a story retelling task to elicit emotionally laden narratives, which were analyzed through the use of acoustic measures and perceptual codes. Naive listeners coded all productions for emotion type, degree of expressiveness, and awkwardness.

RESULTS: The group with HFA was not significantly different in accuracy or expressiveness of facial productions, but was significantly more awkward than the TD group. Participants with HFA were significantly more expressive in their vocal productions, with a trend for greater awkwardness. Severity of social communication impairment, as captured by the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS; Lord, Rutter, DiLavore, and Risi, 1999), was correlated with greater vocal and facial awkwardness.

CONCLUSIONS: Facial and vocal expressions of participants with HFA were as recognizable as those of their TD peers but were qualitatively different, particularly when listeners coded samples with intact dynamic properties. These preliminary data show qualitative differences in nonverbal communication that may have significant negative impact on the social communication success of children and adolescents with HFA.

DOI of Published Version



Grossman RB, Edelson LR, Tager-Flusberg H. Emotional facial and vocal expressions during story retelling by children and adolescents with high-functioning autism. J Speech Lang Hear Res. 2013 Jun;56(3):1035-44. doi: 10.1044/1092-4388(2012/12-0067). PubMed PMID: 23811475; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3703874. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of speech, language, and hearing research : JSLHR

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Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID