Selective attention systems and their integration in children with Autism

Autism — a neurological disorder characterized by impaired communication and social interaction — is a severe and pervasive developmental disorder that usually appears in the first three years of a child’s life. Children and adults with autism have varying levels of difficulty with social interaction and communication. Early predictors of autism include the inability to notice and make meaning of social cues such as eyes and faces, while displaying an intense focus and attention to seemingly irrelevant, non-social objects such as watches or cars. These attentional disturbances are thought to play a key role in the development of perceptual abnormalitities, hindering social and emotional competence.

Dr. Grace Iarocci is investigating attentional disturbances in children with autism, Employing a series of computer tasks, she is assessing how the children’s orientation and selection attention processes are coordinated and integrated across vision and hearing. This innovative approach focuses on providing comprehensive and precise assessments of the efficiency of each of the processes of attention, as well as insight into the complexity of the organization and function of theses processes.

Dr. Iarocci is using the information gathered from this research to develop interventions that tackle the early markers underlying the behavioural symptoms of autism.