'Motherese' Or Infant-Directed Speech As An Early Diagnostic Marker For ASD

'Motherese' Or Infant-Directed Speech As An Early Diagnostic Marker For ASD

We're all familiar with the special way we talk to babies and young children. That sing-songy, high-pitched, playful tone is known as 'motherese'. It's marked by simple grammar and exaggerated intonation.

But do you know that motherese can have a significant impact on identifying autism? Researchers at the University of California San Diego School Of Medicine have developed a new eye-tracking test. It measures how much attention toddlers pay to motherese. This test could potentially help diagnose autism. Let's dive into the details of this study in this blog.

Background Of The Study

The study, featured in JAMA Network Open, examined how toddlers engage with motherese and evaluated their social and language development abilities, including those diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and those without. It involved observing 653 toddlers aged 12 to 48 months. In the study, each child watched two videos. One showed a woman using motherese, while the other displayed either a noisy highway or abstract shapes and numbers with techno music. Through eye-tracking technology, researchers monitored which video captured each toddler's attention.

What Did The Study Reveal?

The study uncovered significant differences in how toddlers with and without autism spectrum disorder (ASD) responded to motherese. Toddlers without ASD diagnosis showed strong interest in motherese, with about 80% of their attention focused on the video featuring infant-directed speech. They were consistently engaged with motherese.

In contrast, autistic toddlers displayed varying levels of attention to motherese, ranging from 0% to 100%. The researchers noted that those who paid less than 30% attention were identified as having autism. Additionally, these children exhibited poorer language and social skills. The findings shed light on the importance of observing toddlers' responses to motherese as a potential early indicator of autism spectrum disorder.

Why Are These Findings Significant?

The findings from this study hold significant promise for revolutionising how we diagnose autism. Currently, diagnosing autism involves a lengthy and complex process, requiring multiple appointments and assessments. However, this study suggests that using eye-tracking technology to measure toddlers' attention to motherese could lead to earlier detection of autism.

Early diagnosis is crucial for improving therapeutic outcomes for children with autism. By identifying autism at a younger age, interventions can be initiated sooner, leading to better long-term outcomes. Furthermore, researchers envision using a child's response to motherese as a screening tool to determine which treatments may be most beneficial for them.

Overall, using motherese speech as a screening tool for autism is groundbreaking. It has the potential to facilitate earlier diagnosis and more favourable prognoses for children with an autism spectrum disorder.


In conclusion, the study on 'motherese' offers promising insights as an early diagnostic marker for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This breakthrough has the potential to streamline the diagnostic process, improve therapeutic outcomes, and personalise treatment approaches for children with ASD.

Offering natural assistance to individuals with autism, particularly during childhood, can be highly beneficial. For instance, products like Nurosmart Syrup by Nisarga Herbs are crafted to support cognitive health in children. This Ayurvedic brain tonic, formulated with natural ingredients, helps diminish hyperactivity and boost concentration. Nurosmart Syrup offers a gentle, side-effect-free approach to promoting better brain development, making it suitable for children dealing with hyperactivity, attention issues, and memory challenges. To learn more, visit the Nisarga Herbs website and explore similar products.

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Dr. Arati Soman

Dr. Arati Soman is a seasoned Ayurvedic physician and Head Formulator at Nisarga Herbs. Driven by a deep passion for Ayurveda and vast expertise, she has been instrumental in formulating medicines, diagnostic procedures, and innovative Ayurvedic treatments that are trusted globally.