Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a disorder largely characterized by deficits in social interaction. In
adolescence, a period of life when the need for social approval is at its peak and peer interaction plays a vital
role in emotional health and well-being, such deficits can be devastating. Tools to measure social interaction
abilities are critical, allowing clinicians to identify deficits, track progress, and evaluate treatment efficacy.
Subjective methods to assess social interaction currently exist. However, objective measurement tools do not.
Yet, objective tools would provide a valuable and much-needed addition to current subjective instruments,
increasing the reliability, accuracy, and ecological validity of assessment. Acoustic-prosodic entrainment may be
a viable framework for an objective tool to quantify social interaction deficits in adolescents with ASD. This
phenomenon, in which interlocutors align their speech behaviors with one another, is highly predictive of
functional measures of successful interaction. Our preliminary research has indicated disruptions in the
entrainment patterns of adults with ASD. However, studies of acoustic-prosodic entrainment in both TD
adolescents and adolescents with ASD in naturalistic peer interactions are virtually nonexistent. Here we propose
an investigation focused on understanding the acoustic-prosodic entrainment patterns of TD early-adolescents
in dyadic conversations with their peers, using a large existing corpus (SA1). We then examine entrainment in a
small corpus of conversations involving adolescents with ASD (SA2). The outcomes of this F31 proposal
constitute the requisite first steps toward the overarching goal of this research program—to develop and validate
an objective measurement tool to quantify interactional abilities in individuals with ASD through the lens of
conversational entrainment. This project, coupled with the mentorship of an exemplary research team, a focused
training plan, and a high-quality training environment will provide the applicant with the skills and experience
needed to launch a successful research career.