Looking or Talking: Visual Attention and Verbal Engagement During Shared Book Reading of Preschool Children on the Autism Spectrum
Wicks, R., Paynter, J. & Westerveld, MF
Children who have an autism diagnosis often have trouble learning to talk and read. These difficulties become noticeable before children start school and may be linked to lower attention and engagement in literacy-related activities such as sharing storybooks with their parents. To date, few researchers have looked at possible ways to measure how children on the autism spectrum engage during shared storybook reading, for example, where children look or how much they talk, and how this may be related to their letter-name knowledge and their vocabulary knowledge. In this study, we analyzed videos of 40 preschoolers on the spectrum and their parents sharing an unfamiliar storybook. We wanted to see whether where children looked (i.e. toward the storybook, their parent, or elsewhere) and how much they talked were related to what their parents did (e.g. ask questions or provide prompts) and/or children's letter-name knowledge and vocabulary. The videos were coded for different child and parent behaviors. We found that where children looked and how much they talked were strongly related to each other and what parents did during the shared book reading interaction, particularly asking questions and using prompts. In contrast to what we expected, where children looked was not related to children's letter or vocabulary knowledge. Overall, results of the study draw attention to the connection between what parents do and what preschoolers on the spectrum do when sharing storybooks and provide directions for future research.