Why do Children with Autism have a Joint Attention Impairment?
Clinicians describe joint attention difficulties such as a lack of gaze-following, pointing, and showing as the most significant problems that are seen in children with autism. What psychological impairment prevents these behaviours from appearing? This chapter takes one kind of joint attention difficulty — the lack of gaze-following in children with autism — and outlines the proposal that this impairment arises from an orienting impairment that arises early in development. It argues that despite an ability to orient, shift, and disengage attention to objects, children with autism have a very basic difficulty in dyadic orienting to other people that has impact on predictive gaze-following ability and on the development of subsequent symbolic skills.
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