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Autism immerses 2-year-olds in a synchronized world

Toddlers with autism may closely monitor co-occurring sights and sounds, resulting in a neglect of social signals

When 2-year-olds with autism look at someone’s face, they may crave synchronized detection rather than social connection. Toddlers with this developmental condition track sounds and sights that occur together, such as a mother’s lips moving in time with sounds coming out of her mouth, rather than social cues, such as the gleam in that same mother’s eyes, a new study suggests.

Locked in a world of co-occurring sound and motion, youngsters with autism neglect social signals that critically contribute to mental and brain development, propose psychologist Ami Klin of Yale University’s Child Study Center and his colleagues.

“Our findings lead us to the rather sad hypothesis that a toddler with autism might watch a face but not necessarily experience a person, since so much of that experience involves mutual eye gaze,” Klin says.

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