Visual Eye Pattern Preferences and their Role in Autism

Visual Eye Pattern Preferences and their Role in Autism

Aside from delays in speech, one of the first things that many parents notice in children who develop autism is the fact that they avoid studying social images in favor of examining geometric patterns.  And a study done by the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine has proven that in fact, this is not just coincidence, but actually a possible quantifiable indicator that a child either has some sort of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or is a candidate for one, although the test cannot determine the extent of the disorder.

The test group for this study consisted of 110 children between the ages of 14 and 42 months.  These infants and toddlers were all shown the same group of moving images (including geometric shapes moving across the screen as well as children engaged in dynamic social movement such as dance or yoga, shown simultaneously on a split-screen).  Their visual responses were monitored via an infrared light bounced off the eye to determine which images produced more interest in the child (i.e., which side of the screen they spent more time watching).

Interestingly, those children who spent more than 69% of the time focused on the geometric side of the screen were categorized as autistic, whereas only one child not classified as autistic spent more time looking at the geometric images than the social images.  However, not all of the children affected by autism were moved to focus more on the geometric patterns.  In fact, only 40% of the autistic children seemed to prefer the geometric shapes.  But when compared with the 2% of normal children and 9% of developmentally disabled children that seemed to somewhat prefer that side of the screen, it does seem significant.

So what does this mean as an indicator for ASD?  Although further testing is no doubt in order, it seems that this simple test could end up being a good early warning detection system for parents to assess a child’s inclination towards autism, although it is surely not infallible.  Many babies enjoy looking at geometric shapes and patterns, whether stationary or moving, so researchers have cautioned that parents should not become alarmed if their child seems suddenly interested in the screen saver on the computer, for example.  However, a child who seems to lean heavily towards watching geometric patterns at the expense of watching people in motion may prompt parents to seek out further testing in order to determine if autism is a possibility.

Once again, this type of testing is still in the preliminary stages, so a child who exhibits these signs but lacks other hallmarks of the condition (for example, speech delay or regression) may not be at any higher risk for autism.  But if these proclivities continue to dominate your child’s reaction to external stimulus or the inclination to avoid watching social activities seems to grow, then it probably couldn’t hurt to think about talking to a specialist.  It might be nothing at all, but taking advantage of this possible system of early detection could make a big difference in how your child develops over time.

Kyle Simpson writes for Invoice Factoring website in the UK. Learn more about how factoring can help save your business time and money.

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