[nfbmi-talk] autistic children lack visual skills

joe harcz Comcast joeharcz at comcast.net
Wed Dec 22 13:49:12 UTC 2010

Autistic children lack visual skills

Study challenges previous research that suggests that those with autism have enhanced visual searching skills.

By Agence France-PresseMon, Dec 20 2010 at 9:37 PM EST



MINIMAL VISUAL SKILLS: Autistic teens at a social skills building camp. New study demonstrates that those with autism lack the ability to visually recognize

and search for items. (Photo: Kim Johnson Flodin/AP)

Autistic children have difficulty finding things such as shoes in a bedroom or apples at a supermarket, impairing their ability to lead normal lives, according

to a new study.


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Researchers at the University of Bristol said that by testing the ability to carry out real-life tasks they had challenged previous findings that autistic

children have enhanced visual searching skills.

"This new research indicates that children with autism are unable to search effectively for objects in real-life situations — a skill that is essential

for achieving independence in adulthood," they said in a statement.

The researchers told 40 children, half of whom were autistic, to search for targets in a test room in an experiment they said mirrored daily life better

than previous tests that used computers or table-top tasks.

"Critically, these targets appeared more on one side of the room than the other," they said, which allowed them to test previous conclusions that autistic

children are quicker to pick up on patterns in a system.

"A contemporary theory of autism (systematizing) states that these children are more sensitive to regularities within a system, (for example, prime numbers,

computer programs and train timetables)," it said.

"Surprisingly, more 'systematic' behavior was not observed in this test; children with autism were less efficient and more chaotic in their search."

The findings could help explain why autistic children are often unable to complete simple tasks like finding their favorite animal at the zoo, the researchers


"The ability to work effectively and systematically in these kind of tasks mirrors everyday behaviors that allow us to function as independent adults,"

said Josie Briscoe, one of the authors of the report.

"This research offers an exciting opportunity to explore underlying skills that could help people with autism achieve independence."

The study will appear in the US "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" PNAS December 21-25 issue.

An estimated 1.5 million Americans suffer from autism, a disability that affects one's ability to communicate and interact with others and typically appears

during the first three years of life.

Copyright 2010


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