Attention Modification to Attenuate Facial Emotion Recognition Deficits in Children with ASD

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Virginia Tech


Prior studies have identified diminished attending to faces, and in particular the eye region, in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which may contribute to the impairments they experience with emotion recognition and expression. The current study evaluated the acceptability, feasibility, and preliminary effectiveness of an attention modification intervention designed to attenuate deficits in facial emotion recognition and expression in children with ASD. During the 10-session experimental treatment, children watched videos of people expressing different emotions with the facial features highlighted to guide children's attention. Eight children with ASD completed the treatment, of nine who began. On average, the children and their parents rated the treatment to be acceptable and helpful. Although treatment efficacy, in terms of improved facial emotion recognition (FER), was not apparent on task-based measures, children and their parents reported slight improvements and most parents indicated decreased socioemotional problems following treatment. Results of this preliminary trial suggest that further clinical research on visual attention retraining for ASD, within an experimental therapeutic program, may be promising.



Autism Spectrum Disorder, Facial Emotion Recognition, Eye-Tracking