Increased Eye Contact During Conversation Compared to Play in Children With Autism
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Children with autism have atypical gaze behavior but it is unknown whether gaze differs during distinct types of reciprocal interactions. Typically developing children (N = 20) and children with autism (N = 20) (4–13 years) made similar amounts of eye contact with an examiner during a conversation. Surprisingly, there was minimal eye contact during interactive play in both groups. Gaze behavior was stable across 8 weeks in children with autism (N = 15). Lastly, gaze behavior during conversation but not play was associated with autism social affect severity scores (ADOS CSS SA) and the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS-2). Together findings suggests that eye contact in typical and atypical development is influenced by subtle changes in context, which has implications for optimizing assessments of social communication skills.
KeywordsAutism spectrum disorder (ASD) Eye contact Gaze Context Play Naturalistic interactions
This study was funded in part by the Simons Foundation (336363 & 383667), Autism Speaks Meixner Fellowship (7608), the Department of Defense (AR130106), a generous gift from the Mortimer D. Sackler family, the Leon Levy Foundation and the DeWitt-Wallace Reader’s Digest Fund. We thank Richard Vuduc for his assistance with formatting figures.
RMJ, AH, CC, EK, JMR, CL and AR participated in the design of the study. RMJ, AH and CC collected the data. RMJ, AS, AH, CC, CB, SN, ES, EK, CW and AR participated in the data coding and analysis. RMJ, CW and AR performed the statistical analyses with the oversight of JMR and CL. RMJ and AR drafted the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
Catherine Lord receives royalties from two measures that were used in this study (ADI-R, ADOS-2) and all proceeds related to this project were donated to charity. No other authors report conflicts of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
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