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Lateral glances toward moving stimuli among young children with autism: Early regulation of locally oriented perception?


Autistic adults display enhanced and locally oriented low-level perception of static visual information, but diminished perception of some types of movement. The identification of potential precursors, such as atypical perceptual processing, among very young children would be an initial step toward understanding the development of these phenomena. The purpose of this study was to provide an initial measure and interpretation of atypical visual exploratory behaviors toward inanimate objects (AVEBIOs) among young children with autism. A coding system for AVEBIOs was constructed from a corpus of 40 semistandardized assessments of autistic children. The most frequent atypical visual behavior among 15 children aged 33–73 months was lateral glance that was mostly oriented toward moving stimuli and was detected reliably by the experimenters (intraclass correlation > .90). This behavior was more common among autistic than typically developing children of similar verbal mental age and chronological age. As lateral vision is associated with the filtering of high spatial frequency (detail perception) information and the facilitation of high temporal frequencies (movement perception), its high prevalence among very young autistic children may reflect early attempts to regulate and/or optimize both excessive amounts of local information and diminished perception of movement. These findings are initial evidence for the need to consider the neural bases and development of atypical behaviors and their implications for intervention strategies.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Laurent Mottron, Hôpital Rivière-des-Prairies, 7070 Boulevard Perras, Montréal, Quebec H1E 1A4, Canada; E-mail:
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