Joint attention in autism - Essay Example

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Introduction “She had such pretty-hazel eyes with long curly eyelashes, finely tapered eyebrows, flaxen coloured curls and a sweet yet ‘far-away’ expression. I hoped against hope that all would eventually go well, and that she was just a slow starter” (Frith, U, 2003,1)…
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Joint attention in autism
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Download file to see previous pages The expression ‘’far-away’’, with which the child is characterized, describes perfectly the lack of social interaction that people have with autism. This is one of the reasons why children with autism may be referred to as ‘aloof’ or ‘withdrawn’ as they appear disinterested in the world around them (Wall, 2004, 5). Other behavioural aspects that show the existence of autism are avoidance of eye contact, lack of desire to interact or play with other children or adults, lack of desire to establish relationships and friendships, inability to interpret people’s feelings and emotions, lack of verbal and non-verbal social communication as well as some restricted repertoire activities. One of the factors that prove to be problematic while handling social behaviour of children with autism is ‘joint attention’. It can be described as the process by which one alerts another about any observation via nonverbal means such as gazing or pointing (Wikipedia). Impairment in joint attention is common in every person with autism and thus it is considered as a fundamental area that needs to be studied in depth. Joint attention in typical development In the early years of their lives, infants of typical development are capable only of involuntary signals; a thing that is similar to what other animals do that have limited social behaviour themselves. From an evolutionary point of view, behaviour exists for communication purposes as the older, more mature and cognitively developed people are able to interpret them correctly and therefore understand the children’s needs. But unlike other animals, human infants’ communication skills improve very quickly. They tend to develop new cognitive capacities that enable them to extract socially relevant information from the voices, faces and gestures of other people (Slater, Lewis, 2002, 264). After the first year of their lives, the infants develop rapidly in a cognitive level while leaving behind the limited capacities he used to have. He gets one step closer to a fully developed human being who is able to understand the intentions of others through their behaviour. During this period, the infants quickly learn the procedure of understanding other people’s mind through specific procedures. First they look into their mother’s eyes with delight and follow the direction of her gaze for information. Then, it has been observed that the children smile in response to their mother’s voice in order to get her attention. Finally, the infants babble syllables; using words symbolically to get people’s attention and influence their behaviour. Not after the first year will the ability of understanding other’s thoughts develop in the child. The mind reading ability, which distinguishes humans from other animals, develops gradually over the first year. This ability is spotted first within the non-verbal communication (gaze, gesture- in other words joint attention) of the children and then, it is manifested more clearly in the child’s ability to speak and understand language. Joint attention in autism Recent studies have shown that children with autism cannot initiate joint attention skills; a thing that is called ‘joint attention deficit’. It is described as ‘a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests or achievements with other people’ (American Psychiatric Association, 1995, p.72). Specifically, there are two different functions that joint attention behaviours seem to serve; ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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