CHILDREN will often withhold eye contact if they’ve done something naughty or are hiding something.
Knowing all too well that once they look in their parent’s eyes, the game will be up.
But experts have now revealed that eye contact could be a telltale sign when it comes to diagnosing your child with autism.
Common signs usually include avoiding speaking and struggling to interact with others.
However, medics at Yale University in the US say that a lack of eye contact could also be a sign and could help when it comes to future diagnosis and treatment of the condition.
The team looked at brain activity during social interactions between pairs of adults.
Typically, one of the participants would have ASD and both were fitted with sensor caps that delivered light into the brain.
The gadget also recorded changes in light signals with information about brain activity during eye-to-eye contact.
Writing in the journal PLOS ONE, they explained that eye contact of those with ASD significantly reduced activity in a brain region called the dorsal parietal cortex.
This is the part of the brain that accounts for spatial attention and eye movements.
They said that during eye-to-eye contact, brain activity was synchronised between those who didn’t have the condition.
This means that they were able to hold eye contact with the other person.
Those who did have ASD however struggled with the eye contact – something the researchers said is consistent with the difficulties some patients with the condition face when it comes to social interactions.
Author Joy Hirsch, Elizabeth Mears said: “Our brains are hungry for information about other people, and we need to understand how these social mechanisms operate in the context of a real and interactive world in both typically developed individuals as well as individuals with ASD (autism spectrum disorder).
“We now not only have a better understanding of the neurobiology of autism and social differences, but also of the underlying neural mechanisms that drive typical social connections.”
Experts at Peking-Tsinghua Center for Life Sciences in Beijing, China, also previously modelled the facial expressions of people with autism.
Writing in the journal Abnorm Psychol in 2018, they found evidence of ‘eye avoidance’ in young children with ASD.
This is while a study published in 2019 also found that not making eye contact was a telltale sign.
Researchers at Manchester University and the University of Western Australia studied 103 babies from nine to 14 months.
All of them had shown early signs of autism – which can include not smiling, getting very upset with certain tastes or sounds, repetitive movements, not talking as much as other children, making eye contact or responding to their name.
Published in JAMA Pediatrics, the study outlined the signs to parents in order to help them interact with their children.
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