Falck-Ytter, T (2015) Gaze performance during face-to-face communication: a live eye tracking study of typical children and children with autism Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 7, 78-85.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by socio-communicative impairments, and limited attention to other people’s faces is thought to be an important underlying mechanism. Here, non-invasive eye-tracking technology was used to quantify the amount of time spent looking at another person’s face during face-to-face communication in children with ASD (n=13, age 6 years) and age and IQ-matched neurotypical children (n=27, 6 years). We found that in one context of high ecological relevance – listening to an adult telling a children’s story – children with ASD showed a markedly reduced tendency to look at the adult’s face. In interactions between typical children and the adult, the amount of gaze to the other’s face aligned between the two individuals. No such relation was found when the ASD group interacted with the adult. Despite these differences in the storytelling context, we also observed that social looking atypicalities did not generalize to another and more structured context, implying that social looking cannot not be considered fundamentally disrupted in children with ASD.