Comparing attention to socially-relevant stimuli in autism spectrum disorder and developmental coordination disorder

Sumner, Emma J; Leonard, Hayley C. and Hill, Elisabeth L.. 2018. Comparing attention to socially-relevant stimuli in autism spectrum disorder and developmental coordination disorder. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 46(8), pp. 1717-1729. ISSN 0091-0627 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Difficulties with social interaction have been reported in both children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and children with developmental coordination disorder (DCD), although these disorders have very different diagnostic characteristics. To date, assessment of social skills in a DCD population has been limited to paper-based assessment or parent report. The present study employed eye tracking methodology to examine how children attend to socially-relevant stimuli, comparing 28 children with DCD, 28 children with ASD and 26 typically-developing (TD) age-matched controls (aged 7-10). Eye movements were recorded while children viewed 30 images, half of which were classed as ‘Individual’ (one person in the scene, direct gaze) and the other half were ‘Social’ (more naturalistic scenes showing an interaction). Children with ASD spent significantly less time looking at the face/eye regions in the images than TD children, but children with DCD performed between the ASD and TD groups in this respect. Children with DCD demonstrated a reduced tendency to follow gaze, in comparison to the ASD group. Our findings confirm that social atypicalities are present in both ASD and to a lesser extent DCD, but follow a different pattern. Future research would benefit from considering the developmental nature of the observed findings and their implications for support

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Identification Number (DOI):


Autism Spectrum Disorder, Developmental Coordination Disorder, eye tracking, face processing, social, attention

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10 December 2017Accepted
9 January 2018Published Online
November 2018Published

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Date Deposited:

09 Jan 2018 12:34

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 16:43

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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