When your child blinks too much, you may wonder if they are doing it on purpose or if they have an eye problem. But have you considered the fact that they may have autism spectrum disorder (ASD)?
Read on to learn why children with autism may blink more frequently.
Eye Tracking Studies of Children with Autism
Healthy people tend to look at the eyes when viewing a photograph. Even newborns prefer to look at their mothers’ eyes, and the reverse is true. Out of this mutual eye contact, plenty of crucial human development appears to emerge.
Children with autism often grapple with impaired social development. So it makes sense to examine their eye movements.
In eye-tracking studies, researchers investigate gaze patterns by showing toddlers different materials. These include still photos, videos of human faces, and moving objects. And the findings have been nothing short of eye-opening.
Less Eye Contact
Collected pieces of evidence reveal abnormal eye contact behavior in children with ASD. When looking at a face, kids with autism as young as 15 months tend to fixate less frequently on the eye regions.
Focus on Mouth Regions
Instead, children with ASD tend to gaze longer at the mouth and other peripheral facial features. That’s because the mouth has more movements than the eyes. So they watch the mouth rather than the eyes to recognize emotion.
The absence of eye contact creates a deficit in facial and emotional processing. That’s why children with autism struggle to pick relevant social cues in the right sequence.
While it may not feel that way, blinking interrupts your line of vision. When watching an engrossing scene, you refrain from blinking so you don’t miss out on anything. This is blink inhibition.
A new study examined the eye movements of a group of 2-year-olds when watching a recorded video of two toddlers on the playground. In this experiment, 41 of the kids were healthy, and 52 had ASD.
In the findings, both groups blinked around five times per minute. But there were striking differences in the timing of their respective blinks in relation to what they were seeing.
Healthy growing kids stopped blinking when watching emotional scenes in the video. For example, they focused on a scene in the video when the boy and the girl fought over a toy. In contrast, toddlers with autism blinked less when watching physical movements.
Healthy kids decode words and facial expressions to predict what will happen next. But this is not the case among toddlers with ASD.
They cannot work out the social cues. Thus, they often react to physical actions that have already occurred.
The Bottom Line
Blinking rates or patterns can give an earlier diagnosis of autism in children. Through eye-tracking technology, researchers can understand the cues that children with autism engage with and those that they don’t.
The findings may lead to effective therapies that increase the kid’s interest and understanding of the social world. In the long run, the child with autism will show improved levels of social attention.
If you are ready to work with the best ABA therapy provider in New York, New Jersey or Indiana, give us a call at (732) 402-0297. Our dedicated team is ready to help and we will treat you like family.
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