Åsberg Johnels, J., Gillberg, C., Falck-Ytter,T., & Miniscalco, C. (2014) Face viewing patterns in young children with autism spectrum disorders: Speaking up for a role of language comprehension Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 57, 2246-2252.

Purpose: The aim was to examine whether viewing patterns towards the mouth, eyes, and non-mouth/non-eyes areas differed between young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and typical development (TD) when viewing a person speaking. Also, we examined the role of language comprehension in such viewing patterns. Method: Eleven children with ASD (approx. 4.5 years) and 29 TD toddlers (approx. 2.5 years) participated. The groups were matched on language comprehension raw scores from the Reynell Developmental Language Scales-III. All children viewed short films of a woman speaking while their eye-movements were recorded with eye-tracking equipment. Results: Children with ASD spent proportionally less time viewing the mouth, and more time viewing non-mouth/non-eyes areas. Time viewing the eyes did not differ between groups. Increased mouth viewing was associated with lower language comprehension in the ASD group. Conclusions: We argue that variability in language comprehension is an important factor to monitor when interpreting face-viewing patterns in young children with ASD, particularly with regard to mouth viewing. Our result may help explain divergent findings in this field of research.