Typically, we are susceptible to the epidemic of contagious yawning. If somebody beside you yawns, you will generally yawn moments later for no apparent reason. I know I’ve been a victim of this for years and I have actually started the chain reaction a few times as well. An intriguing new study illustrates that children with autism are less likely to contract the syndrome of contagious yawning. This study was conducted by researchers at the University of Connecticut.
The researchers wanted to determine at which during the years of social development that babies and children began to yawn contagiously. In order to ascertain their results, the researchers studied 120 children ranging in age from 1-6. Typically, babies yawn before they even exit the womb; however, those infants with autism did not show signs of contagious yawning until the age of 4.
This group of researchers also studied 30 children with autism, between the ages of 6 to 15. These children were then compared to other children in the same age range, who were developed with the same chronological and mental ages. The findings showed that children with autism were less likely to yawn contagiously than children without autism. It also showed that children with more severe cases of autism were even less likely to yawn contagiously.
Researchers state, “Given that contagious yawning may be a sign of empathy, this study suggests that empathy – and the mimicry that may underlie it – develops slowly over the first few years of life, and that children with ASD may miss subtle cues that tie them emotionally to others.” Moving forward, this study will provide more access subtle cues to determining early on if a child may be suffering from autism.