Though the cause of autism is largely unknown, the symptoms are usually diagnosed within the first three years of development. A recent study conducted by the Department of Neurosciences at the University of California, San Diego indicates that a visual preference for geometric shapes may indicate a risk for autistic development in early childhood.
One-hundred-and-ten toddlers were chosen to participate in the study. During the experiment, one parent held a toddler in a secluded room with two television monitors. While one monitor displayed a social scene with children performing active yoga positions, the other monitor displayed mobile, animated geometric shapes. Both scenes played simultaneously for one minute. Researchers recorded the amount of time the toddlers fixated on the screens and the amount of time they were disengaged.
The results revealed that the autism spectrum disorder group spent more time fixated on the geometric shapes than the other groups. From this result, experts theorized that geometric preference and engagement were a combination of factors that could strongly predict the development of autism in early childhood.
Two aspects of the study may limit the legitimacy of the results. In a previous study, autistic children showed no more response to their won mother’s face than a paper cup. Oddly, in this study, a large portion of autistic children responded to a social scene of unfamiliar children. The reason for this outcome is unknown, but there may be a difference in brain function among autistic children of which modern research is currently unaware. Secondly, experts analyzed the toddlers once for one minute. Although this time frame was previously determined to be the accurate measure of the attention span of a one-year old, the toddlers should have been evaluated multiple times for more accurate data.
Official methods of autism diagnosis during early development have not been found, which is why this type of research is a high priority. Testing geometrical preference may prove to be a useful determinant of autism because eye movement is independent of age and advanced capabilities. Verifying the symptoms of autism at an early age could help parents treat and significantly improve their child’s development. If you suspect that your child may be autistic, consult a pediatrician for recommended treatments.