Attempting to “Increase Intake from the Input”: Attention and Word Learning in Children with Autism
Previous work has demonstrated that social attention is related to early language abilities. We explored whether we can facilitate word learning among children with autism by directing attention to areas of the scene that have been demonstrated as relevant for successful word learning. We tracked eye movements to faces and objects while children watched videos of a woman teaching them new words. Test trials measured participants’ recognition of these novel word-object pairings. Results indicate that for children with autism and typically developing children, pointing to the speaker’s mouth while labeling a novel object impaired performance, likely because it distracted participants from the target object. In contrast, for children with autism, holding the object close to the speaker’s mouth improved performance.
KeywordsAutism Eye-tracking Word-learning Attention to faces Joint attention
Special thanks to Madeline Mahowald and Emily Davis for their assistance with the stimuli and to the participant families.
This research was supported by grants from the Autism Science Foundation (Grant No.11-1013), Autism Speaks (Grant No. 7897), and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) (Grant No. 5T32MH019927-24).
ET helped in conception of the study, participated in its design, coordinated data collection, performed the statistical analysis, and drafted the manuscript; DA participated in the design and interpretation of the data; GR helped in conception and design of the study, and participated in interpretation of the data; SS participated in the design of the study, data collection, and interpretation of the data. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
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