Neuroscience News logo for mobile.

Autistic children show typical attention to joint while playing with a parent – Neuroscience News

summary: Young children on the autism spectrum join in the interest similar to that of a nervous child when playing with their parents.

source: press cell

For decades, autism research has relied on data collected during lab tasks or interviews with doctors that are more restricted than a child’s daily interactions with others.

A study published in the journal current biology On May 12 he challenges the status quo by observing young children in more natural play areas.

Using a head-mounted camera to track children’s eye movements as they play with toys, the scientists observed that children with autism achieved joint attention—measured by the time they spend looking at the same toy at the same time as their parents—at typical levels.

To understand how children interact with social partners in a more comfortable and natural environment, Julia Yurkowicz Harding, an autism researcher at Indiana University, was among the first to use a dual-eye-tracking method with autistic children to study social interactions. between children and their parents.

“Head-mounted eye tracking allows us to gain accuracy in measuring visual attention and manual work, but allows us to allow children to play more naturally,” says Jurkowitz Harding, co-first author on the study.

Children who fall on the autism spectrum often have difficulty following the eyes of a social partner. This behavior, called gaze tracking, is a key part of the way autism researchers tend to identify shared attention.

However, researchers using head-mounted eye tracking to study the development of typically developing babies recently found that babies don’t look at their parents’ faces much when they play with toys together.

This means that the next look may not be an available signal to achieve mutual interest in some natural setting. Instead, developing children usually follow their parents’ hands, which are often touching or holding toys, as a way to see what their parent is looking at.

An evaluation of data collected during play sessions with a group of 50 2- to 4-year-olds found that children with autism maintained joint attention at levels consistent with their neurotypical peers.

Children who fall on the autism spectrum often have difficulty following the eyes of a social partner. The image is in the public domain

These results were exciting for Yorkovich Harding. “Every time you find something that is typical and healthy in children with autism, there is an opportunity to explore it,” she says. In addition, children with autism also used manual follow-up cues rather than stare follow-up to follow the parents’ attention to joint attention.

Experiences, where a child focuses on an activity, such as playing with a toy truck or building with blocks, along with a parent, are thought to support language development.

The current study found that parents of children with autism spectrum disorder called toys more frequently when they were in a state of common interest together compared to when they were not looking at the same toy.

Yorkovich-Harding and her team hope that by identifying times when children with autism are able to play in more typical ways, adults can encourage autistic children to do more of these activities and provide more learning opportunities.

“We need pressure to understand the daily lives of individuals with autism, the social pressures they face day in and day out, and the social context in which they interact so that we can help them exist in the social world around us in some way that is comfortable and confident for them,” she says.

About this ASD news search

author: press office
source: press cell
Contact: Press Office – Cell Press
picture: The image is in the public domain

original search: open access.
“Autistic children gain joint attention while playing with free-flowing dolls without the appearance of a face” by Julia Yurkovich-Harding et al. current biology

a summary

see also

This shows a newborn baby

Autistic children show common interest while playing a free-flowing game without showing a face


  • ASD children engage in joint attention at repetitive and typical levels during play
  • Like TD pairs, ASD follows the hands (instead of the eyes) to arouse mutual interest
  • In both groups, the parents frequently name the toys during moments of mutual interest
  • These findings raise questions about the meaning of common attention deficit in ASD


Children’s ability to share attention with another person (ie achieve mutual interest) is critical for learning about their environments in general and for supporting language and learning object words in particular.

While Joint Attention (JA) in relation to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is often narrowly run because it arises from eye gaze or explicit cues alone, recent evidence shows that JA can be achieved in natural settings on a larger scale by Multiple other paths beyond staring and gestures.

Here, we use head-mounted dual eye tracking to examine the trajectories and characteristics of RA episodes during parent-child free play, and to compare children with autism with those with typically developing (TD). JA moments were objectively defined as both child and parent looking at the same object at the same time.

Consistent with previous work in TD ChildrenAnd We found that both TD and ASD children rarely looked at their parents’ face in this context of unstructured free play. However, both groups achieved similar high rates of JA that far exceeded the chance, suggesting the use of alternative pathways in JA. We classify these alternative pathways, find that they occur at similar levels across both groups, and achieve similar goals: specifically, for both groups, JA goals are named more frequently by parents at those moments than by non-shared organisms.

These findings expand the perception of JA abilities and vulnerabilities in ASD and raise questions regarding the mechanistic role of the facial gaze-mediated JA pathway in ASD.

2022-05-12 21:08:41

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *