Autism Speaks and Royal Arch Masons award $180,000 of funding to researchers studying auditory processing disorder

July 11, 2023

Autism Speaks, with the support of a Royal Arch Research Assistance grant, is funding three pilot research projects to advance the study of central auditory processing disorder (CAPD) in autism.

Royal Arch Masons International ranks among the leading charities helping children with central auditory processing disorder, a condition that affects the ability to understand speech. People with CAPD can typically hear normally but have difficulty processing what they hear.

“Thanks to our continued partnership with the Royal Arch Masons, we are proud to announce funding for three research studies that will make progress towards developing new interventions for autistic children with CAPD,” says Dean Hartley, senior director of genetic discovery and translational science at Autism Speaks. “These studies will enhance our understanding of the neurology of CAPD, the impact of CAPD on sleep and the potential of virtual reality (VR) in the treatment of this condition, ultimately improving quality of life for autistic children with CAPD.”

Each pilot study receives $60,000 of funding for one year. 

Meet our grantees:

Emily Knight, M.D./Ph.D.

Emily Knight, M.D./Ph.D.

University of Rochester            

Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often have difficulty understanding speech in noisy settings, resulting in social and academic challenges. Many autistic children also have co-occurring attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) that can make understanding speech even more difficult.

This study will use electrophysiology (EEG) and VR to better understand the neurology behind speech-in-noise perception, or the ability to identify spoken words in background noise, in autistic children with and without co-occurring ADHD.

The results of this study will help in designing VR training interventions for CAPD.







Elizabeth Smith, Ph.D.

Elizabeth Smith, Ph.D.

Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

This study seeks to understand the neural causes of CAPD by using neuroimaging and an auditory assessment in individuals with ASD and Fragile X syndrome, a disorder that can cause social, behavioral and developmental delays.

Researchers will measure individual differences in sensory processing, social communication and cognitive abilities. Then, participants will listen to speech sounds presented in background noise while wearing a cap to measure their brain activity.

Researchers will also pilot the use of a new video tool to improve speech-in-noise perception in people with autism.




Aarti Nair, Ph.D.

Aarti Nair, Ph.D.

Loma Linda University

Research shows that children with CAPD often have difficulty sleeping, resulting in a range of behavioral and social challenges. However, no research has been done to understand the connection between sleep, CAPD and autism.

This study aims to use caregiver reports and clinician-administered measures to understand the effects of CAPD on sleep disturbances in 100 school-aged children with ASD. The study also hopes to understand the relationship between sleep, CAPD and other characteristics of ASD.

These results will help support the development of a targeted intervention to address sleep disturbances in ASD that will include management of auditory processing difficulties.