Questions concerning the ontogenetic stability of autism have recently received increased attention as long-term longitudinal studies have appeared in the literature. Most experimental measures are designed for specific ages and functioning levels, yet developing experimental tasks appropriate for a wide range of ages and functioning levels is critical for future long-term longitudinal studies, and treatment studies implemented at different ages. Accordingly, we designed an eye-tracking task to measure preferential orienting to facial features and implemented it with groups of participants with varying levels of functioning: infants, and school-age children with and without autism. All groups fixated eyes first, revealing an early and stable orienting bias. This indicates common bias towards the eyes across participants regardless of age or diagnosis. We also demonstrate that this eye-tracking task can be used with diverse populations who range in age and cognitive functioning. Our developmental approach has conceptual implications for future work focused on task development and particularly new experimental measures that offer measurement equivalence across broad age ranges, intellectual functioning and verbal abilities.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was funded by a National Institute of Mental Health (www.nimh.nih.gov) award to JTE (NIMH RO1 MH104324), a National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (www.nichd.nih.gov) award to JP (NICHD P30 HD03110), an Autism Speaks (act.autismspeaks. org) award to HCH (award number 2099), and a Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (banting. fellowships-bourses.gc.ca) to KAD (201211BPF-295776-233239).The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
© 2018 Dalrymple et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.