“My research has been primarily motivated by a desire to better understand language, particularly why language develops differently in some groups of children.”
This interest has led me to study children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), specific language impairments (SLI), and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Most children with these disorders evidence language, as well as reading difficulties. Understanding the causes of language difficulties in these populations is critical for the development of more effective interventions and for earlier identification of children at risk.
My most recent research has explored the roles of effortful and automatic processing of auditory information in these children. Effortful processing comes into play when we are first learning something, such as how to identify the sounds of different instruments in an orchestra, and we need to focus our attention and actively work to master the skill, but as we become good at it, we are able to maintain our proficient level of performance without so much effort because aspects of the task have become automatic. I think that the language and reading difficulties exhibited by many children with ASD, SLI, and ADHD may be attributable to their inability to automatically process auditory information efficiently. These children continue to employ more effortful processing strategies than their typically developing peers. This extra effort is tiring and ties up resources which could be used for other tasks leading to poorer performance not only in the area of primary difficulty but in other areas requiring effortful processing, such as learning new material, social interactions, and managing feelings.