Teaching Eye Contact to Children with Autism: A Conceptual Analysis and Single Case Study

By Carbone, Vincent J.; O'Brien, Leigh et al. | Education & Treatment of Children, May 2013 | Go to article overview

Teaching Eye Contact to Children with Autism: A Conceptual Analysis and Single Case Study


Carbone, Vincent J., O'Brien, Leigh, Sweeney-Kerwin, Emily J., Albert, Kristin M., Education & Treatment of Children


Abstract

Eye contact occurs very early in development and serves many functions for the young child. It has been implicated in the development of social, cognitive, and language skills. A substantial number of children with autism fail to develop this important skill and therefore experimenters with both developmental and behavior analytic perspectives have researched methods to teach eye contact. However, only a few researchers have recently attempted to condition the response of the communication partner as a reinforcer for social behavior and thereby arrange the conditions under which typical children develop social responses. The purpose of this case study was to extend the analysis of typical development of social skills to the teaching of eye contact as a language pragmatic skill to a child with autism. Data from a single case study of a child with autism are provided.

KEYWORDS: Eye Contact, Social Skills, Mands, Extinction, Autism, Motivating Operations

It has been suggested that eye contact, sometimes referred to as (eye) gaze behavior or eye-to-face gaze (Mirenda, Donnellan, & Yoder, 1983) serves an important social function for young children even before vocal responding begins to develop (Stern, 1985). In early development, eye contact serves to regulate face-to-face social interactions (Lee, Eskritt, Symons, & Muir, 1998; Leekam, Baron-Cohen, Perrett, Milders, & Brown, 1997) and contribute communicatively to social interactions (Tiegerman & Primavera, 1984). Later, eye contact responses coordinate the visual attention between another individual and an object of interest (Arnold, Semple, Beale, & Fletcher-Flinn, 2000) and have been found to be an influencing variable in language acquisition (Podrouzek & Furrow, 1988).

Deficits in various nonverbal social-communicative behaviors, particularly in dyadic (i.e., eye-to-face) and triadic eye gaze (i.e., joint attention directed at a third party or object) are commonly identified as the earliest indicators and most noticeable deficits of developmental delays and of Autism Spectrum Disorder in particular (Baron-Cohen, Allen, & Gillberg, 1992; Mirenda et al., 1983; Wimpory, Hobson, Williams, & Nash, 2000; Woods & Wetherby, 2003). Because of the various social functions eye contact may serve, failure to emit this important behavior may have significant implications for children with autism. In addition, there are possible educational concerns associated with poor eye contact. Specifically, previous research has suggested that the diversity of prelinguistic pragmatic skills exhibited (e.g., eye contact, joint attention) is predictive of the rate of subsequent vocabulary acquisition (Kleinke, 1986) and it has also been suggested that poor eye contact may adversely affect the educational gains of children with autism due to the relationship between eye contact and attending to the teacher and instructional demands (Greer & Ross, 2007; Lovaas, 1977).

Given the potential negative outcomes correlated with deficits in eye contact, the development of eye contact responses in children with autism has drawn the attention of many researchers. Theories related to cognition, affect, social meaning, and theory of mind have been offered to account for the development of eye contact and for the characteristic deficit in children with autism (Baron-Cohen, 1988; Burgoon, Coker, & Coker, 1986). In addition, the effects of various behavior analytic principles and procedures on eye contact responses have been investigated.

Early behavior analytic investigations targeted eye contact responses to achieve instructional attention prior to beginning academic programs using vocal and physical prompts (Foxx, 1977; Greer & Ross, 2007; Helgeson, Fantuzzo, Smith, & Barr, 1989; Lovaas, 1977; Lovaas, 1981; Mirenda et al., 1983). The premise of these interventions was that if children with autism failed to orient toward the instructor, they would also fail to respond and learn (Foxx, 1977; Helgeson et al.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Teaching Eye Contact to Children with Autism: A Conceptual Analysis and Single Case Study
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.