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Children Quick To Judge Peers With Autism, Study Finds


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Typically-developing kids often see their peers with autism as less friendly and less trustworthy, new research suggests, and they’re making these assessments quickly based on appearance alone.

Researchers found that typically-developing children formed their impressions of those with autism in as little as 30 seconds.

The findings come from a study of 44 typically-developing 11-year-olds who viewed a series of short, silent videos featuring other children their age who were filmed while responding to simple questions from an interviewer. They were not told that some of the kids in the videos had autism.

Nonetheless, when the children participating in the study were asked to rate the kids in the videos, they indicated that those with autism were not as trustworthy as the typically-developing children in the films.

What’s more, study participants were less likely to say that they wanted to play with or be friends with the video subjects on the spectrum, according to the findings published this month in the journal Autism.

“Children with autism spend many years learning about facial expressivity, but our research shows that by the age of 11 their slower development in this area is already marking them out amongst their typically-developing peers,” said Steven Stagg of Anglia Ruskin University in England who led the study. “It is therefore important that schools work with typically-developing children to educate them about autism, in order to break through the negative impressions that can be formed through a moment’s contact.”

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Comments (9 Responses)

  1. Dean says:

    I get that you are trying to provide news for the disabled, or at least I hope so, because headlines like “Autism Moms Have Stress Similar To Combat Soldiers” brings “I almost but not quite fit the diagnostic criteria for PTSD, so I will believe this when I see overwhelming proof” to mind. No autistic adult who is in a similar state to me gives two doodoos about what parental units have or proclaim they have to suffer.

    That said, I would also like to point something out. When you refer to me as “…with autism” in any context, you basically evoke one of the almost-but-not-quite-PTSD symptoms I have. My heart rate goes up, my brainwaves scramble, my skin feels like it is rippling or trying to get away from me.

    Separationist language is one of the reasons the autistic are being mistreated so much. It is a link in the chain. When you refer to something as a separate entity, it helps along the idea that that something is removable and/or undesired. And seeing it anywhere frightens me to such an extent that I often feel violent about it.

    I have deep pains and regrets concerning the way I was treated when I was a schoolboy. But separationist language and parental unit pity fests are much, much worse. They make it clear to me that the speaker is not interested in helping, and just wants this inhumane situation so many of us are in to continue.

  2. Jeremy McLellan says:

    Or maybe the reason kids with autism give that impression is because they hate being filmed giving interviews.

  3. Whitney says:

    I don’t think simple matter being hated to filmed or interviews. Non-verbal cues of parents is what are kids are picking up on and even the fact they see adults treating kids with autism differently. I am not sure there is a solution to the fact because at times it is necessary. The problem is society loves to treat people who are different either by skin color, gender, religion or disability with discrimination. So it is wider problem of intolerance

  4. Blind Logic says:

    Then how about we teach the little brats not to be so xenophobic, eh? Grow a little bit of spine and realize that people will be different.

  5. Genesis says:

    Whats the point of these studies? Some of us freak out when we’re being interviewed… or even worse…. interrogated.

    The Autism community wants to be apart of society as much as we can…

    We just have a difficulty pointing it out.

    Only because people would rather listen to articles like these or organizations that think we’re cursed.

  6. Michele says:

    Have you spent time with this age group? I am a mother of 3, one autistic who is 15 and 2 typically developing children, ages 13 and 10. I also work in a middle school. Kids at this age are all about seeking sameness and being like others. Period. They are put off by most things that do not agree with their particular sensibilities. The autistic students who have been my students have varied greatly in their ability to socialize, and it is an ongoing issue for them and for the adults who are trying to encourage greater social interactions and friendships. However, most kids at this age stick to the kids they relate to and don’t deviate from that approach until high school. This study is not helpful at all. They should study elementary and high school kids and develop a more meaningful study.

  7. Jon K. Evans says:

    Well at least they were/are better than I was. I thought that I was NORMAL, and that my peers had the problem. I didn’t see myself as being different until I started getting the heat from parents, peers, co-workers, etc.

  8. Larry M says:

    Adults on the spectrum are also capable of spotting others on the spectrum. That’s how I was “brought out”. After that I did my homework and research and was officially diagnosed about two months later. It also seems a major shame that most groups aimed at ASD forget about the adults who have are on the spectrum and were diagnosed as adults – mainly with Asperger’s which was not recognized until DSM-IV. I have even spotted a few that are either ASD or may have a number of traits. The problem is that there are still many in that category who are either in self-denial or are simply not aware until someone brings them out as well. I am very high on the spectrum but still have some of the commonalities associated with autism. Frankly I Am happy I Am not longer pretending to be an NT!

  9. Whitney says:

    The problem is most people think autism is a controlled condition where we can turn off and on to suit society. We have to conform to rules to society and it seems that bending is done solely by autistics. NOT by nuerotypicals and by that means is that we must accomadate them and they seem not to accomadate us. They in fact if you high functioning sees you as potential rival in jobs and careers and why should disabled person makes the same as non-disable. It does not matter if the study does children and kids follow the behaviors of parents and pick up non-verbal cues how to deal with people are different. This study might well be of people with different skin color. A person reacts differently to people of skin color that are not the same as their own. It comes down to how prejudice is taught. If a person is shown to react to disabled community then a child learns that behavior but it comes from parents not the schools. It is also the parents job to teach tolerance and equality for all. It is simple it is called prejudice. I agree with assessments that the study is not well explained or why it is done.

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