Precursors to social and communication difficulties in infants at-risk for autism: Gaze following and attentional engagement

Rachael Bedford, Mayada Elsabbagh, Teodora Gliga, Andrew Pickles, Atsushi Senju, Tony Charman, Mark H. Johnson, The BASIS Team

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

153 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Whilst joint attention (JA) impairments in autism have been widely studied, little is known about the early development of gaze following, a precursor to establishing JA. We employed eye-tracking to record gaze following longitudinally in infants with and without a family history of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at 7 and 13 months. No group difference was found between at-risk and low-risk infants in gaze following behaviour at either age. However, despite following gaze successfully at 13 months, at-risk infants with later emerging socio-communication difficulties (both those with ASD and atypical development at 36 months of age) allocated less attention to the congruent object compared to typically developing at-risk siblings and low-risk controls. The findings suggest that the subtle emergence of difficulties in JA in infancy may be related to ASD and other atypical outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2208-2218
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Volume42
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • At-risk siblings
  • Autism
  • Broader autism phenotype
  • Gaze following
  • Joint attention

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