The story at a glance
- Hundreds of toddlers watched videos of a woman talking in a playful style alongside traffic or techno videos.
- The researchers measured how much attention they paid to the woman.
- The use of such tests could allow better diagnoses of autistic children.
According to a study published in the journal JAMA Network Open, lower levels of attention to infant-directed speech, also known as “mothering” or “parenting,” by toddlers may be an early indicator of spectrum disorders. autistic.
The researchers observed more than 600 toddlers in eye-tracking tests when playing side-by-side videos with an actress speaking in parentis alongside a video with traffic noise or techno music. They also made a version of the test showing two videos of the same actress, one where she spoke in parentese and one where she spoke in flat intonations.
The team measured the percentage of time the toddler was visually obsessed with the parent speaker and found that toddlers with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) ranged from 0 to 100 percent fixation, per compared to the median values of about 83 and 81% fixation in toddlers without ASD on the traffic and techno tests.
Many toddlers with ASD have paid attention to parenting videos. However, nearly a quarter of toddlers with ASD showed low levels of attention, some as low as 1 or 2 percent.
Additionally, toddlers with ASD whose fixation rate was below the 30% threshold were consistently diagnosed with ASD using a separate assessment.
These children also had lower social and linguistic abilities. On the other hand, children with ASD but who had high levels of attention on tests scored higher on expressive language assessments.
The authors state that the use of such attention tests could help differentiate between children with ASD and could serve as an early indicator for certain types of ASD screening related to language and social skills.