A peer-reviewed research article in which we assessed word learning abilities in people with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Our main result suggests that people with autism develop the ability to learn novel words by referring to gaze cues, but not as well as their typically developing peer.
While typically developing children can use referential gaze to guide their word learning, those with autism spectrum disorder are often described to have problems with that. However, some researchers assume that the ability to follow gaze to select the correct referent can develop in autism later compared to typically developing individuals. To test this assumption, we compared the performance of adults with and without autism on a word learning task while recording their gaze behavior using an eye tracker. Results showed that both groups mostly chose the correct referent, but less so for the autism spectrum disorder group when the distractor’s saliency was increased, suggesting that the ability to learn novel words by referring to gaze develops in autism spectrum disorder, but not fully, relative to their typically developing peers.
Aldaqre, I., Paulus, M. & Sodian, B. (2015). Referential gaze and word learning in adults with autism. Autism, 19 (8). doi:10.1177/1362361314556784