Expert: Eye Tracking Shows Early Intervention May Improve Communication in Children With Autism

Researchers are using eye-tracking technology to monitor what children look at on video screens, considering those with autism are likely to focus on unimportant details and not faces.

Ann Mastergeorge

Ann Mastergeorge

Pitch

It’s common for children to display early communication skills, such as eye contact and shared eye gaze, early in infancy. But those with autism often don’t exhibit similar skills and continue to lag behind in early communication skill development, according to Ann Mastergeorge, chair of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies in the College of Human Sciences at Texas Tech University. Mastergeorge and a team of researchers are using eye-tracking technology to monitor what children look at on video screens, considering those with autism are likely to focus on unimportant details and not faces.

In pilot studies, a child’s gaze was recorded using eye-tracking software. The child was then provided a home-based, parent mediated intervention with activities to encourage repeated opportunities in social interactions like sharing and turn-taking. After several weeks, the child was again monitored using the software to assess whether the intervention had changed the child’s gaze to a more appropriate location on the video screen. Mastergeorge said the team has recorded “dramatic differences” in children from pre- to post-intervention.

Expert

Ann Mastergeorge, chair, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, College of Human Sciences, (310) 874-5163 or ann.mastergeorge@ttu.edu

Quotes

  • “We can then, in a very scientific way, see where children are looking; if they’re looking (at) relevant places, how long they’re looking and if they’re gazing back and forth and getting that relevant social information.”
  • “What we’re using it for is sort of an evaluative look to see whether we can actually see the differences in their gaze and gaze shift behaviors in both pre- and post-intervention.”
  • “In our pilot studies, we actually have shown just dramatic differences in using the eye tracker.”

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College of Human Sciences

The College of Human Sciences at Texas Tech University provides multidisciplinary education, research and service focused on individuals, families and their environments for the purpose of improving and enhancing the human condition.

The college offers a Bachelor of Science degree with disciplines in:

  • Apparel Design and Manufacturing
  • Community, Family, and Addiction Services
  • Early Childhood
  • Family and Consumer Sciences
  • Human Development and Family Studies
  • Interior Design
  • Nutritional Sciences
  • Personal Financial Planning
  • Restaurant, Hotel, and Institutional Management
  • Retailing

The college also offers graduate programs leading to the Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees.

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Department of Human Development and Family Studies

The Department of Human Development and Family Studies offers a wide range of courses and degrees in the areas of early childhood, human development, interpersonal relations and family studies.

  • Bachelor of Science in Human Development & Family Studies
  • Bachelor of Science Human Development & Family Studies with teacher certification
  • Master of Science Human Development & Family Studies
  • Ph.D. in Human Development & Family Studies

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