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.
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.
- "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."