Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp 242–247 | Cite as

Brief Report: Circumscribed Attention in Young Children with Autism

  • Noah J. Sasson
  • Jed T. Elison
  • Lauren M. Turner-Brown
  • Gabriel S. Dichter
  • James W. Bodfish
Brief Report

Abstract

School-aged children and adolescents with autism demonstrate circumscribed attentional patterns to nonsocial aspects of complex visual arrays (Sasson et al. 2008). The current study downward extended these findings to a sample of 2–5 year-olds with autism and 2–5 year-old typically developing children. Eye-tracking was used to quantify discrete aspects of visual attention to picture arrays containing combinations of social pictures, pictures of objects frequently involved in circumscribed interests in persons with autism (e.g., trains), and pictures of more commonplace objects (e.g., clothing). The children with autism exhibited greater exploration and perseverative attention on objects related to circumscribed interests than did typically developing children. Results suggest that circumscribed attention may be an early emerging characteristic of autism.

Keywords

Autism Attention Visual exploration Toddlers Perseveration 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This research was supported by R01 MH073402 (Bodfish). L.M. Turner-Brown was supported by NICHD T32-HD40127. G Dichter was supported by K23 MH081285. Assistance for this study was provided by Kristin S. L. Lam, Tia Holtzclaw, and the Subject Registry Core of the UNC Neurodevelopmental Disorders Research Center (P30 HD03110).

References

  1. Bodfish, J. W., Symons, F. J., Parker, D. E., & Lewis, M. H. (2000). Varieties of repetitive behavior in autism: comparisons to mental retardation. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 30, 237–243.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Dalton, K. M., Nacewicz, B. M., Johnstone, T., Schaefer, H. S., Gernsbacher, M. A., et al. (2005). Gaze fixation and the neural circuitry of face processing in autism. Nature Neuroscience, 8(4), 519–526.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. DeLoache, J. S., Simcock, G., & Macari, S. (2007). Planes, trains, automobiles—and tea sets: extremely intense interests in very young children. Developmental Psychology, 43, 1579–1586.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Johnson, M. H. (2000). Cortical specialization for higher cognitive functions: beyond the maturational model. Brain and Cognition, 42, 124–127.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Lam, K. S., Bodfish, J. W., & Piven, J. (2008). Evidence for three subtypes of repetitive behaviors in autism that differ in familiarity and association with other symptoms. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 49, 1193–1200.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Lord, C., Risi, S., Lambrecht, L., Cook, E. H., Jr., Leventhal, B. L., DiLavore, P. C., et al. (2000). The autism diagnostic observation schedule-generic: a standard measure of social and communication deficits associated with the spectrum of autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 30(3), 205–223.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Merin, N., Young, G. S., Ozonoff, S., & Rogers, S. J. (2007). Visual fixation patterns during reciprocal social interactions distinguish a subgroup of 6-month-old infants at-risk for autism from comparison infants. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 37, 108–121.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Morgan, L., Wetherby, A. M., & Barber, A. (2008). Repetitive and stereotyped movements in children with autism spectrum disorders late in the second year of life. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 49, 826–837.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Ozonoff, S., Macari, S., Young, G. S., Goldring, S., Thompson, M., & Rogers, S. J. (2008). Atypical object exploration at 12 months of age is associated with autism in a prospective sample. Autism, 12, 457–472.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Sasson, N. J. (2006). The development of face processing in Autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 36(3), 381–394.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Sasson, N. J., Turner-Brown, L. M., Holtzclaw, T. N., Lam, K. S. L., & Bodfish, J. W. (2008). Children with autism demonstrate circumscribed attention during passive viewing of complex social and nonsocial picture arrays. Autism Research, 1, 31–42.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Schultz, R. T. (2005). Developmental deficits in social perception in autism: The role of the amygdala and fusiform face area. International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience, 23, 125–141.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. South, M., Ozonoff, S., & McMahon, W. M. (2005). Repetitive behavior profiles in Asperger syndrome and high-functioning autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 35, 145–158.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Watt, N., Wetherby, A. M., Barber, A., & Morgan, L. (2008). Repetitive and stereotyped behaviors in children with autism spectrum disorders in the second year of life. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38, 1518–1533.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Noah J. Sasson
    • 1
  • Jed T. Elison
    • 2
    • 3
  • Lauren M. Turner-Brown
    • 2
  • Gabriel S. Dichter
    • 2
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
  • James W. Bodfish
    • 2
    • 4
    • 7
  1. 1.School of Behavioral and Brain SciencesUniversity of Texas at DallasRichardsonUSA
  2. 2.Carolina Institute for Developmental DisabilitiesUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of MedicineChapel HillUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Arts and SciencesChapel HillUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of MedicineChapel HillUSA
  5. 5.Duke-UNC Brain Imaging and Analysis CenterDuke University Medical CenterDurhamUSA
  6. 6.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesDuke University Medical CenterDurhamUSA
  7. 7.Center for Development and LearningUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA

Personalised recommendations