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Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) attend typically to faces and objects presented within their picture communication systems

Authors

  • K. Gillespie-Smith,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychology, School of Natural Sciences, University of Stirling, Stirling, Scotland, UK
    Current affiliation:
    1. Department of Philosophy, Psychology and Language, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
    • Correspondence: Dr Karri Gillespie-Smith, Department of Philosophy, Psychology and Language, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8 9JZ, UK (e-mail: Karri.Gillespie-Smith@ed.ac.uk).

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  • D. M. Riby,

    1. School of Psychology, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, England, UK
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  • P. J. B. Hancock,

    1. Department of Psychology, School of Natural Sciences, University of Stirling, Stirling, Scotland, UK
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  • G. Doherty-Sneddon

    1. Department of Psychology, School of Life Sciences, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, England, UK
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Abstract

Background

Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may require interventions for communication difficulties. One type of intervention is picture communication symbols which are proposed to improve comprehension of linguistic input for children with ASD. However, atypical attention to faces and objects is widely reported across the autism spectrum for several types of stimuli.

Method

In this study we used eye-tracking methodology to explore fixation duration and time taken to fixate on the object and face areas within picture communication symbols. Twenty-one children with ASD were compared with typically developing matched groups.

Results

Children with ASD were shown to have similar fixation patterns on face and object areas compared with typically developing matched groups.

Conclusions

It is proposed that children with ASD attend to the images in a manner that does not differentiate them from typically developing individuals. Therefore children with and without autism have the same opportunity to encode the available information. We discuss what this may imply for interventions using picture symbols.

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