Attentional Behaviors During Social Interaction in Children with Autism



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Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have been shown to express delays in social and cognitive development compared to typically developing (TD) children. Prior literature has studied looking behaviors in these groups; however, results are inconsistent and there have been no simple, systematic definitions of the variables studied. Furthermore, a majority of these studies have been limited by their use of a controlled computerized laboratory procedure, which is not necessarily representative of real-world gaze experiences. The objective of this study is to observe the potential group differences in looking behaviors by directly measuring children’s moment-to-moment gaze. We have utilized a head-mounted eye tracker during a parent-child naturalistic object play session. By comparing group differences in both the duration (saccades, fixation, or sustained attention) and the target (social or nonsocial stimuli) of gaze during social interaction, we can gain insight into how these children process the environment. Proper measures can then be taken to optimize the child’s learning, development, and attention in schools and at home.