Social Visual Engagement in Children With and Without Autism: Classroom and Lab Observations Open Access

Wang, Yongyi (Spring 2023)

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Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a genetic disorder that causes significant social

impairments. Twin studies of typically developing infants suggest that Social Visual Engagement

(SVE), the time children spend looking at faces in social stimuli, is highly heritable and genetic.

However, children with ASD show atypical patterns of SVE. In the lab, researchers conducted

eye-tracking studies to investigate children’s social attention, frequently with two types of

dynamic social stimuli: First-person and Third-person interaction stimuli. In naturalistic

environments, researchers measure children's social attention by recording children's active

engagement through behavioral coding. This study adapts two classroom observational measures

used by Siller et al. (2022) that measure children’s attention to faces in the classroom: Facelooking

and Onlooking. However, few studies have compared eye-tracking measures in lab and

classroom observational measures directly to examine if similar constructs of social attention

were captured. This study explored correlations between the First-person and Third-person

interaction stimuli and Face-looking and Onlooking. We found a significant positive correlation

between Third-person interaction stimuli and Face-looking, suggesting children who spent more

time looking at the eye region in Third-person interaction stimuli received a higher score of

Face-looking in the classroom. The significant correlation between eye-tracking and classroom

observations on children’s social attention provides guidance on assessing autistic children’s

readiness for inclusion programs and designing intervention programs to scaffold children’s

social attention in the classroom.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Eye Tracking Measures of Social Visual Engagement (SVE) 1

Observations of Social Attention in Preschool Classrooms 4

The Current Study 5

Method 7

Setting & Participants 7

Procedures 9

Measures 9

Results 13

Descriptive Analyses 13

Preliminary Analyses 13

Correlations Between SVE Scores and Classroom Observation Measures 14

Exploratory Follow-up Analyses 16

Discussion 16

Limitations 19

References 21

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