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Social Communication in Young Children with Traumatic Brain Injury: Relations with Corpus Callosum Morphometry

The purpose of the present investigation was to characterize the relations of specific social communication behaviors, including joint attention, gestures, and verbalization, with surface area of midsagittal corpus callosum (CC) subregions in children who sustained traumatic brain injury (TBI) before 7 years of age. Participants sustained mild (n = 10) or moderate-severe (n = 26) noninflicted TBI. The mean age at injury was 33.6 months; mean age at MRI was 44.4 months. The CC was divided into seven subregions. Relative to young children with mild TBI, those with moderate-severe TBI had smaller surface area of the isthmus. A semi-structured sequence of social interactions between the child and an examiner was videotaped and coded for specific social initiation and response behaviors. Social responses were similar across severity groups. Even though the complexity of their language was similar, children with moderate-severe TBI used more gestures than those with mild TBI to initiate social overtures; this may indicate a developmental lag or deficit as the use of gestural communication typically diminishes after age 2. After controlling for age at scan and for total brain volume, the correlation of social interaction response and initiation scores with the midsagittal surface area of the CC regions was examined. For the total group, responding to a social overture using joint attention was significantly and positively correlated with surface area of all regions, except the rostrum. Initiating joint attention was specifically and negatively correlated with surface area of the anterior midbody. Use of gestures to initiate a social interaction correlated significantly and positively with surface area of the anterior and posterior midbody. Social response and initiation behaviors were selectively related to regional callosal surface areas in young children with TBI. Specific brainbehavior relations indicate early regional specialization of anterior and posterior CC for social communication.

from the International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience

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Investigating joint attention mechanisms through spoken human–robot interaction

We report evidence from two eye-tracking experiments in which participants saw videos of a robot looking at and describing objects in a scene. The results reveal a quantified benefit-disruption spectrum of gaze on utterance comprehension and, further, show that gaze is used, even during the initial movement phase, to restrict the spatial domain of potential referents. These findings more broadly suggest that people treat artificial agents similar to human agents and, thus, validate such a setting for further explorations of joint attention mechanisms.

from Cognition

Initiating and responding to joint attention bids in children with autism: A review of the literature

Joint attention is a skill that involves coordinating the attention of at least two individuals towards an object or event. Although it is seen as a critical skill in early child development, it is frequently absent in children with autism and has been linked to poorer language outcomes for those children. As a result, multiple interventions have been developed to teach children with autism to respond to, and initiate, bids for joint attention. These interventions, however, differ widely both in terms of procedures used and in whether they focus on teaching children to respond to, or initiate, bids for joint attention. This literature review was conducted to document research gaps and intervention similarities between joint attention intervention studies for children with autism. The specific intent of this review was to determine whether researchers teach responding and initiating separately or sequentially, describe the extent to which procedures differ among studies, and identify whether social or non-social consequences are used during joint attention training. Implications for the treatment of joint attention deficits are discussed and recommendations to both researchers and practitioners are provided.

from Research in Developmental Disabilities

Augmented Language Intervention and the Emergence of Symbol-Infused Joint Engagement

Conclusions: The effects of parent-coached augmented language interventions generalize to children’s engagement in child–parent interactions outside the intervention context in ways that may facilitate additional language acquisition.

from the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research

Joint Attention and Social Competence in Deaf Children with Cochlear Implants

The authors examined the influence of cochlear implants on joint attention and social competence in severe to profoundly congenitally deaf toddlers. Twenty-seven hearing mothers and hearing toddlers (HH dyads), and 26 hearing mothers and deaf toddlers, 9 with cochlear implantation (HD-cochlear dyads), and 17 with no cochlear implantation (HD-no cochlear dyads) were observed engaging in joint attention. Mothers provided ratings of children’s social competence. HH and HD-cochlear dyads displayed more joint attention than HD-no cochlear dyads. Children who were in dyads who engaged in more joint attention were rated by their mothers as higher on expressive and compliance behaviors and lower on disruptive behaviors compared to children who were in dyads who engaged in lower levels of joint attention. Findings suggest that cochlear implants may aid in the early socio-emotional development of some deaf children.

from the Journal of Developmental & Physical Disabilities

Stimulus Overselectivity Four Decades Later: A Review of the Literature and Its Implications for Current Research in Autism Spectrum Disorder

This review of several topics related to “stimulus overselectivity” (Lovaas et al., J Abnormal Psychol 77:211–222, 1971) has three main purposes: (1) To outline the factors that may contribute to overselectivity; (2) to link the behavior-analytical notion of overselectivity to current nonbehavior-analytical research and theory; and (3) to suggest remedial strategies based on the behavior-analytical approach. While it is clear that overselectivity is not specific to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and also that not all persons with ASD exhibit overselectivity, it is prevalent in ASD and has critical implications for symptoms, treatment, research, and theory. Weak Central Coherence and Enhanced Perceptual Functioning theories are briefly considered. The research areas addressed here include theory of mind, joint attention, language development, and executive function.

from the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

Communicative Acts of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders in the Second Year of Life

Method: Communicative acts were examined in 125 children 18 to 24 months of age: 50 later diagnosed with ASD; 25 with developmental delays (DD); and 50 with typical development (TD). Precise measures of rate, functions, and means of communication were obtained through systematic observation of videotaped behavior samples from the Communication and Symbolic Behavior Scales Developmental Profile (A. Wetherby & B. Prizant, 2002).

Results: Children with ASD communicated at a significantly lower rate than children with DD and TD. The ASD group used a significantly lower proportion of acts for joint attention and a significantly lower proportion of deictic gestures with a reliance on more primitive gestures compared with the DD and TD groups. Children with ASD who did communicate for joint attention were as likely as other children to coordinate vocalizations, eye gaze, and gestures. Rate of communicative acts and joint attention were the strongest predictors of verbal outcome at age 3.

Conclusion: By 18 to 24 months of age, children later diagnosed with ASD showed a unique profile of communication, with core deficits in communication rate, joint attention, and communicative gestures.

from the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research

The Effect of High-tech AAC System Position on the Joint Attention of Infants without Disabilities

Joint attention is critical for language development in children. Children with complex communication needs have additional challenges in managing their joint attention, and there is minimal information on how to reduce these demands. Sixteen infants without disabilities and their caregivers participated in a within-subjects design with two storybook reading interactions. In reading, the researcher either held a high-tech AAC system directly in front of herself (aligned with eye-gaze) or to the side (divided from eye-gaze). The frequency and duration of coordinated and passive joint attention episodes were analyzed. The aligned condition resulted in significantly greater frequency and duration of coordinated joint attention than passive joint attention in episodes involving the AAC system. Age was significantly related to frequency and duration of joint attention only in the aligned condition. Future directions and clinical implications are discussed.

from AAC: Augmentative and Alternative Communication

Modeling longitudinal change in the language abilities of children with autism: Parent behaviors and child characteristics as predictors of change

The objective of the current study was to evaluate the patterns of longitudinal change in the language abilities of 28 children with autism during early and middle childhood. Results from fitting a series of multilevel models showed that children’s rate of language growth was independently predicted by (a) children’s responsiveness to others’ bids for joint attention and (b) parents’ responsiveness to their children’s attention and activity during play. Both predictive relations could not be explained by initial variation in global developmental characteristics, such as IQ, mental age, or language abilities. These findings support a social?pragmatic view on language acquisition, which emphasizes the collaborative process through which children and their parents negotiate shared meaning. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2008 APA, all rights reserved)

from Developmental Psychology