Social Gaze Patterns During Play in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder



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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by social communication deficits. One of the earliest, most cost-effective, and more efficient diagnostic approaches is exclusive gaze behaviors of children with ASD on non-social items (e.g., objects and furniture opposite to human face) during free viewing of images on a computer screen. However, gaze behaviors are typically studied with the computer screen-based tasks and lack social context - a critical component for understanding how gaze behaviors are shaped during interaction. The proposed study will test 10 children with ASD and 10 typically-developing (TD) child's between 12 and 36 months during a parent-child play session, in which both parent and child will wear a head-mounted eye-tracker. Frequency and duration of gaze behaviors to different targets “parent's eyes, mouth, face, and hands” will be annotated and compared between the groups. We predict that there will be significant group differences in gaze patterns to social and non-social stimuli, with ASD children attending equally to social and non-social stimuli while TD children attend more to social stimuli (particularly eye and face regions). We also predict that there will be no significant group differences in attention to mouth or hand regions. The results of this study will provide us with insights into the type of early visual experiences that occur in everyday life that may be relevant to early and effective ASD diagnosis, informing the improvement of ASD screening and diagnosis tools as well as early parent-mediated interventions.