New Findings Related to Attention and Gaze Give Us Clues to Differences in Social Development for Individuals on the Autism Spectrum
Difficulty interpreting social information is one of the defining characteristics of autism spectrum disorders (ASD), but there is still a lot we don't understand about the underlying causes of some of these social differences. A key aim of our research at CAR is to advance our understanding about the origins of difficulty with processing social information that is so common in ASD. This knowledge will help us devise better therapies.
There are four key areas of social development that are commonly disrupted by autism which, when taken together, describe much of what it means to have ASD. They include (1) theory of mind, or the ability to understand the thoughts, beliefs, or intentions of others (2) joint attention, or the inclination to pay attention to the same object of interest as someone else, as it relates to speech development; (3) social perception, or the ability to recognize facial expressions or speech inflections; and (4) social attention, or the tendency to prioritize important social information, such as an angry or distressed facial expression, over non-social information, such as pictures on a wall or furniture in a room.
In this the next couple of blog posts, we take you on a deeper dive into a group of CAR studies that are beginning to unlock some answers as to how social attention develops in autism.