Gaze Patterns of Social and Nonsocial Stimuli: A Possible Early Marker for Autism Spectrum Disorder

Join us for the Student Academic Conference on Tuesday, April 16 in the Comstock Memorial Union. View the presentation schedule at mnstate.edu/sac.

By Karissa LaMont

One in 59 children is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the United States. Most children are diagnosed after age four, but an earlier diagnosis and intervention creates the best opportunity to support healthy development and can reduce the cost of lifelong care by two-thirds.   

Ashley Doll looked into a possibility for diagnosing ASD as young as six months through tracking gaze pattern differences between typically developing children and those with ASD.

“We used an infrared laser eye tracker to follow where the kids were looking,” Doll said. “We tested kids from birth to age five years eight months, and found the kids with ASD bounced around on the screen less by looking at certain parts of the screen more often and looked at videos for less amount of time than typically developing kids.”

This early intervention screening process for children with ASD can help teach nonverbal communication, empathy, understanding others, and reading facial expressions. Since these skills do not come naturally for kids with ASD, early intervention increases their chance of healthy development.

“It was eye-opening to me that no one can really be an expert on ASD,” Doll said. “There’s so much out there to learn because it’s such a different disorder to everybody. No person with autism is the same as another person with autism.”

Doll is also thankful for her experience at MSUM and the opportunity to share what she has learned at the Student Academic Conference.

“You can really do a lot of things on this campus,” Doll said. “I did my undergrad here and am now doing the grad program. Students have so many opportunities on campus, such as working in the lab and conducting research with professors. I am excited to share that experience with the undergrad students.”

Ashley is a selected graduate lecturer by the MSUM Graduate Student Council.

About Ashley
Program: School Psychology
Year in School: Graduate Student
Hometown: Mandan, North Dakota