Social stimulation and joint attention in young autistic children.
The present study was designed to examine the effects of social stimulation on the joint attention behavior of 20 autistic children under 6 years of age, 20 receptive language-matched Down syndrome children, and 20 receptive language matched-normally-developing infants. Children's social and non-social engagement states were measured during two experimental play sessions and during free play with parent. For all groups, joint attention was increased when adult play behavior closely followed and was contingent on the behavior of the children; however, the autistic children were significantly less responsive to the experimental manipulation than control subjects. In contrast, the autistic children were no less responsive in terms of other forms of social engagement. Results are interpreted as supporting a model of joint attention deficits in autism that involves factors inherent to the disorder in transaction with social context.
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