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


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.


Autism Attention Visual exploration Toddlers Perseveration 



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).


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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

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