In a recent study published November 20 in Frontiers in Psychology reports on a lightweight eye tracking system that allows researchers to track and chart the shifts in gaze that occurs naturally every 40 milliseconds during playtime. Often, children with autism avoid eye contact. This WearCam may help researchers expose the particulars of this behavior. Weighing less than half a pound, this device has two cameras, one pointing forward and the second facing downward. The bottom camera also captures the reflection of a child’s eyes with a use of a mirror on the device, which provides another way for researchers to follow the child’s line of sight. This device, for example records whether a child is looking at a person’s face or down at his hands. Researchers can chart an unbroken line of vision because of the camera’s two recording areas overlap slightly.
In this study, 14 children with autism aged 2 to 11 years and a control group of 17 children, aged 3 to 6 years, took turns blowing soap bubbles and molding Play-Doh with an adult. The children with autism looked less at the face of the adult blowing bubbles than the controls did. While she kneaded Play-Doh they also looked more at her face than the controls did, even though there was little social reason to attend to her face. The children with autism were slower than controls to look at the adult when she was speaking and looked less at the adult when she showed expressions such as a smile.
These findings support the thought that children with autism have difficulty relying on facial expressions to be aware of social cues. It is suggested they also have delays in processing and integrating speech with visual cues.
To read the full article as reported by Simon Foundation Autism Research Initiative, please click here.
For more information on autism research, read here: http://www.icare4autism.org/what-is-autism/autism-research/