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Unmipaired Attentional Disengagement and Social Orienting in Children with Autism
Attention disengagement and social orienting are the major ways of determining autism since they explain other ASD symptoms such as learning, interaction and cognitive abilities. In a study conducted by Bryson in 2004, children with autism take 3 times longer to develop attention capacity compared to normal developing children (Fischer, Koldewyn, Jiang & Kanwisher, 2014). For instance, study reveals that a 6 year old autistic child has attention capacity of a 3 months old normal developing child and this symptom can be used to account for other common tendencies of autistic children. Studies conducted using free-viewing models for siblings infants of children with autism report they have slow disengagement. According to hypothesis on social orienting, people with autism do not give priority to social stimuli a scenario that affect their cognitive abilities given that people learn from others (Fischer, Koldewyn, Jiang & Kanwisher, 2014). Studies also show that ASD toddlers take shorter periods when looking at people faces compared to TD toddlers and they focus is more on other facial features but avoid the eyes, however, current studies show that ASD toddlers spend time looking at faces making it unclear whether social orientation is a characteristic for autism.
The aim of the research is determine whether social orientation and attentions disengagement are enough ways for determining autism. It will try to answer questions on whether ASD children have sticky attention and whether they are less concerned with social stimuli. The study involved 44 ASD children and 40 TD of the same nonverbal IQ and age. TD children had above average nonverbal IQ and those with highest IQ were excluded. All ASD were retained in order to have a match in IQ, resulting to a group with a mean age of 9.2 and 8.6 for ASD and TD respectively (Fischer, Koldewyn, Jiang & Kanwisher, 2014). In both groups, six participants were female and the results for different genders were analyzed separately. And LCD 17 inch camera was used to monitor stimuli since it contains an eye-tracking camera and was positioned in such a way that participants would view it from the chin and look at the picture for as long as they wanted. The camera contained 256 different pictures that were randomly picked from people faces, cars and other interesting pictures. Gap-overlap paradigm was used to measure social orienting and attention disengagement. Right and left eye movement was determined in a gaze position in order to measure attention. Infrared was used in the eye tracker in gain rich data. Saccadic reaction times of the time that participants take to view the stimulus showed that children looked at the stimuli for not less than 250 minutes and they made eye movements after every 2 minutes.
From the findings, there is no evidence on whether children with ASD suffer from social orienting and attention disengagement. It is clear that children with ASD have attention signatures with the same measure as the TD of the same age. The study used a large number of participants in order to have enough statistical data. Although ASD children many suffer from attention social orienting and attention disengagement, these factors may be present depending on the circumstances. This study has substantial difference with previous studies and there is need for reconciliation. It is also worth noting that attention disengagement may exist in the real world situations and not present in laboratory tests since they are somehow constrained (Fischer, Koldewyn, Jiang & Kanwisher, 2014). A report made by Chawarska on social orientation reveal that ASD toddlers take short periods before shifting their attention from social stimuli while non social stimuli they take a longer time. The differences in findings exist since participants are tested under different circumstances. Additionally, severity of autistic symptoms gets lesser as they increase in age which could be the reason why this research shows no evidence of attention disengagement and social orienting since the participants were between 5 and 9 years.
Fischer, J., Koldewyn, K., Jiang, Y. V., & Kanwisher, N. (2014). Unimpaired attentional disengagement and social orienting in children with autism. Clinical Psychological Science, 2(2), 214-223.