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.”