Publication Date

2008-01-01

Availability

Open access

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense

2007-12-10

First Committee Member

Marygrace Yale Kaiser - Committee Member

Second Committee Member

Daniel Messinger - Mentor

Third Committee Member

Shannon K. de l ?Etoile - Outside Committee Member

Abstract

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are impaired in visually disengaging attention in both social and non-social contexts, impairments that may, in subtler form, also affect the infant siblings of children with an ASD (ASD-sibs). I investigated patterns of visual attention (gazing) in six-month-old ASD-sibs (n = 17) and the siblings of typically developing children (COMP-sibs; n =17) during the Face-to-Face/Still-Face Protocol (FFSF). Also, I examined joint attention through the Early Social Communication Scales (ESCS) when ASD-sibs and COMP-sibs were eight months of age. The relationship between gazing and later joint attention was examined. Throughout the FFSF protocol, ASD-sibs shifted their gaze to and from their parents' faces less frequently than did COMP-sibs. The mean durations of ASD-sibs? gazes away from their parents' faces were longer than those of COMP-sibs. ASD-sibs and COMP-sibs did not differ in the mean durations of gazes at their parents' faces. Also, infants? shifts in gaze were positively correlated with initiating joint attention behaviors at eight months of age. In sum, ASD-sibs showed no deficits in visual interest to their parents? faces, but greater interest than COMP-sibs in non-face stimuli. Such differences may play an important role in the development of joint attention.

Keywords

Autism; Attention; At-risk Sibs

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