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Autism symptoms not explained by impaired attention
Date:7/30/2013

k while tracking their eye movements. Critically, the participants were matched on age and IQ before participating in the study to rule out the possible influence of global developmental delays that aren't specific to autism.

The task was intended to answer two questions: Are children with autism less able to reorient to a new stimulus (a plausible precursor of restricted interests)? And are children with autism slower to respond to social stimuli, such as faces?

Overall, children with and without autism showed clear signatures of shifting attention and orienting to social stimuli, but there was no difference in either ability between the two groups, challenging the hypothesis that impaired attention might be at the root of autism symptoms.

Fischer and Koldewyn underscore that these aren't simply null results they do contribute in a meaningful way to our understanding of autism.

"Understanding which mental capacities are intact in autism is not only encouraging, but also helps families and educators design effective interventions to work on those cognitive skills that are true areas of weakness in autism."

While finding those true cognitive impairments, and their antecedents, has proved difficult, it's not for lack of effort.

"We believe that the crux of autism lies in a difficulty interpreting the nuanced and complex information present in real life social situations," Fischer and Koldewyn conclude. "We plan to test children with autism in more natural scenarios than the typical laboratory environment in order to understand how social context interacts with attentional abilities in autism."


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Contact: Lucy Hyde
lhyde@psychologicalscience.org
202-293-9300
Association for Psychological Science
Source:Eurekalert

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